The U.S. Navy conducted a scheduled, one-missile test flight of an unarmed life-extended Trident II (D5LE) missile from USS Maine (SSBN-741), an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, on the Western Test Range off the coast of San Diego, California, today.
This was part of a Demonstration and Shakedown Operation, designated DASO-30. The primary objective of a DASO is to evaluate and demonstrate the readiness of the SSBN’s strategic weapon system and crew before operational deployment following the submarine’s engineered refueling overhaul. This launch marks 177 successful missile launches of the Trident II (D5 & D5LE) strategic weapon system (SWS).
The Trident strategic weapon system is highly accurate and reliable. The Trident II (D5) missiles recently underwent a life extension program to address potential impacts from aging and obsolescence. The life-extended missiles – Trident II (D5LE) – are now being deployed to the Fleet and will serve for the remaining service life of U.S Ohio-class and United Kingdom Vanguard -class SSBNs, and as the initial loadout for the U.S. Columbia-class and U.K. Dreadnought-class SSBNs.
The U.S. Navy ’s last DASO was in May 2019 off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, from USS Rhode Island (SSBN-740). The U.S. Navy ’s most recent flight test – a Commander’s Evaluation Test – was a series of four launches from USS Nebraska (SSBN-739) in September 2019 off the coast of Southern California. All five of these 2019 flight tests were of the life-extended Trident II (D5LE).
Flight test missiles are not armed. Safety of the public and the crew conducting the mission is paramount. Today’s launch was conducted from sea, the missile flew over the sea, and landed in the sea. At no time did the missile fly over land.The missile test was not conducted in response to any ongoing world events or as a demonstration of power. Test launches – including DASOs – are scheduled years in advance.
Strategic Systems Programs is the Navy command that provides cradle-to-grave lifecycle support for the U.S. Navy ‘s strategic weapon systems. This includes training, systems, equipment, facilities and personnel responsible for ensuring the safety, security, and effectiveness of the nation’s Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) Trident II (D5LE) strategic weapon system.
SLBMs are the sea-based leg of the nation’s strategic nuclear deterrent Triad that also includes the U.S. Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and nuclear-capable bombers. Each part of the Triad provides unique capabilities and advantages. The sea-based leg makes up the majority – approximately 70 percent – of the U.S.’s deployed strategic nuclear deterrent Triad. The SLBM is the most survivable leg of the triad, provides a persistent presence, and allows for flexible concepts of operations.