Navy Extends Trident II D5 Nuclear Missile Service Life

110301-N-7237C-009National Harbor, Md. — The Navy is modernizing its arsenal of Trident II D5 nuclear missiles in order to ensure their service life can extend for 25 more years aboard the Navy’s nuclear ballistic missile submarine fleet, service leaders said.

The 44-foot long submarine-launched missiles have been serving on Ohio-class submarines for 25 years, Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, director of Strategic Systems and Programs said April 7 at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space exposition.

The missiles are also being planned as the baseline weapon for the Ohio Replacement Program ballistic missile submarine, so the Navy wants to extend their service life for at least an additional 25 years, Benedict said.

“Ohio Replacement will be in service until the 2080s, so a submarine missile launching capability must last that long,” he said. “The D5 system has served us well. However, 25 years is about the max of what we planned for the system.”

Benedict said the Navy has been working on technical upgrades to the existing Trident II D 5 in order to prevent obsolescence and ensure the missile system remains viable for the next several decades.

“We’ve modernized the guidance system by replacing two key components due to obsolescence – the inertial measurement unit and the electronics assembly,” Benedict said.

Under the U.S.-Russia New START treaty signed in 2010, roughly 70-percent of the U.S.’ nuclear warheads will be deployed on submarines, Benedict explained.

The 130,000-pound Trident II D5 missile can travel 20,000-feet per second and reach ranges of 4,000 nautical miles, according to Navy figures. The missiles cost $30 million each.

The Navy has recently acquired an additional 108 Trident II D 5 missiles in order to strengthen the inventory for testing and further technological development.

“We’re continually upgrading and testing new aspects of the missile system. We’ve had 148 successful test flights of the missile,” said John Daniels, spokesman for the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs.

As part of the technical improvements to the missile, the Navy is upgrading what’s called the Mk-4 re-entry body, the part of the missile that houses a thermonuclear warhead. The life extension for the Mk-4 re-entry body includes efforts to replace components including the firing circuit, Benedict said.

The Navy is also working with the Air Force on refurbishing the Mk-5 re-entry body which will be ready by 2019, Benedict said.

Benedict said the Mk-5 re-entry body has more yield than a Mk-4 re-entry body, adding that more detail on the differences was not publically available.

The missile also has a larger structure called a release assembly which houses and releases the re-entry bodies, Navy officials said. There is an ongoing effort to engineer a new release assembly that will work with either the Mk-4 or Mk-5 re-entry body.

The Trident II D5 also arms the United Kingdom’s Vanguard ballistic missile submarine. In fact, the U.S. and UK are collaboratively working on a common missile compartment for their next generation SSBNs, or ballistic missile submarines.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Lance

    I hope to see this in modernization not crap like LCS,

    • xXTomcatXx

      You have a real knack for making irrelevant comments. Bravo sir.

  • Beno

    Interesting why increade the size of the new common missle compartment if you intend to use the same missles for the life of the boat ?

    • xXTomcatXx

      “The missile also has a larger structure called a release assembly which houses and releases the re-entry bodies”

      Looks like the Mk5 will make it larger.

  • So if they want to develop a newer/larger missile for the ships to carry

  • Musson

    At the risk of being downclicked – I will make the observation that the CIC does not believe it is fair for the USA to have superiority in nuclear weapons. He will attempt to negotiate away most (if not all) of the nuclear arsenal before he leaves office.

    He has already suggested a 400 bomb limit for all US forces.

    • xXTomcatXx

      Just as long as the keep them on subs. The nuclear trident isn’t much of a trident anymore, but if you’re going to limit it to 400, then by god make sure it’s the boomers that are carrying them.

    • FormerDirtDart

      Musson, you really have no clue about what you have stated, do you?

      Please cite some source where you acquired your information on a “400 bomb limit.”

    • Monte Davis

      I’ve been asking for 50+ years — but just to stay limber, here goes again: WTF does “superiority in nuclear weapons” MEAN, anyway?

      • oblatt22

        Means more money to the contractors. Been that way for 50+ years.

      • Steve B.

        During a period in the 80’s, the Soviets had a few hundred very large ICBM’s (NATO SS-18’s) each with about 12 warheads. Using only a portion of that force gave them the ability to take out every US ICBM silo and control center. Thus using only about 20% of their ICBM force they could destroy +95% of the US force. Seeing that kind of attack on the sensors, the US NCA had about 30 minutes to decide launch our ICBM’s on warning, or wait it out (use it or lose it), thus losing our ability do do anything except launch weapons against the Soviet cities. That is a classic Counter Force attack causing a Counter Value response, which it was realized was a bad situation to be in. That imbalance in the structure of the forces was a classic superiority in weapons. It was a tense period for the NCA until the Trident/Ohio and Peacekeeper systems came on line in sufficient numbers to balance out the equations.

    • Kurt Montandon

      OK, now back that up with actual citations and facts.

      You can’t, of course.

  • hibeam

    We all do the same thing. When your broke you look at bald tires and decide they have a few more years in them. The reason we are broke is pandering fools have turned elections into game shows. We need a balanced budget amendment.

    • toady

      If we were Constitutionally prohibited from borrowing means that we would be unable to wage any long term war because all wars are eventually financed though borrowing. Once our enemies knew we were limited to what we could afford that moment, they will act accordingly.

  • That Trident 11 is bad-ass.

  • Mystick

    I thought they were phasing these out in favor of the Tomahawk 6-pack refit…

  • In the current world there are too many MOD’s and too many weapons. Enough to kill the world more than thousands Times. So many idiots are still believe in making more weapons .. the world most dangerous and the hardest job is not being in military, extremist organization, space walk, space travel, under water welder , electrician (are interesting and enjoyable jobs).

    The world most dangerous job is being in so called British MENTAL health services and getting it RIGHT.

  • Robert Powell

    Once comrade cockroach is down the road kicking rocks and little kids we can ask trump for a loan to up-scale the navy again..