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Navy: Upgrades Required for Trident Launch System

by Bryant Jordan on April 10, 2013

Navy leaders said Wednesday the service must ensure the Pentagon remains committed to upgrades to the Trident missile launch system in line with the development of the replacement for the Ohio-class nuclear submarine fleet.

Rear Adm. Terry Benedict, director of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs, said it is necessary to revitalize and qualify the launch systems of the Trident II D-5, which is deployed aboard the U.S. Navy’s 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile subs and Britain’s four Vanguard-class submarines.

“The Trident is the most survivable leg of the Triad, and it also gives the U.S. a second-strike ability,” Benedict said at the annual Sea Air Space Exposition at National Harbor, Md.

The missile – currently the Trident II D-5 version – was developed and deployed jointly by both the U.S. and the United Kingdom since the 1990s. The missile has been going through life-extensions and the two countries plan to continue deploying them as they transition to the next-generation nuclear submarine.

While budget pressures mount with the sequestration cuts to defense funding, service leaders will be forced to balance modernization priorities. Benedict emphasized the importance of maintaining investment in updating the systems associated within the Nuclear triad.

The U.S. Navy plans to replace its 14 Ohio-class subs with a dozen new ballistic missile submarines. The Navy awarded General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Division a $1.85 billion contract for the development of the Ohio-Class Replacement Program.

The Ohio-class subs start hitting their end-of-life in 2027, and will be retired in the years following. The Navy anticipates its replacements to come on line by the mid-2020s.

Navy leaders have said they can accept the risk of two fewer nuclear capable submarines because of the speed and stealth capability the service expects to develop into the new Ohio-class. Those same leaders will also depend on improved accuracy of upgraded Tridents.

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