Nuclear modernization continues: Lockheed Martin to build more Trident II D5 submarine-launched nuclear missiles

Jan. 31, 2019
WASHINGTON – Strategic weapons experts at Lockheed Martin Corp. will build additional UGM-133A Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic nuclear missiles and support deployed D5 atomic weapons under terms of an order announced Wednesday worth more than a half-billion dollars.
WASHINGTON – Strategic weapons experts at Lockheed Martin Corp. will build additional UGM-133A Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic nuclear missiles and support deployed D5 atomic weapons under terms of an order announced Wednesday worth more than a half-billion dollars.

Officials of the U.S. Navy Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) office in Washington are awarding the Lockheed Martin Space Systems segment in Sunnyvale, Calif., a $559.6 billion order to provide new procurement of Trident II (D5) missile production and D5 deployed systems support.

Navy leaders have put a substantial amount of time, money, and resources into Trident D5 missile production over the past several years. President Donald Trump has said one of his highest military priorities is to revitalize the nation's nuclear missiles and other atomic weapons.

Over the past two years Lockheed Martin received contracts and orders collectively worth $720.1 billion for Trident II D5 missiles and support. Over the same period the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., won a $58.6 million order for Trident D5 MK 6 guidance system production.

Last November Lockheed Martin two orders announced Friday collectively worth $90.4 million. In July 2016 Lockheed Martin won a $21.8 million contract for long lead items to support the fiscal 2017 production schedule for Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and around the same time the company won an $8.3 million order for a cyber security update to information technology (IT) applications unique to fleet ballistic missile systems such as the Trident D5.

Related: Draper Lab to upgrade inertial guidance units on Trident submarine-launched nuclear missile systems

In March 2016 Draper Lab won a potential $163.6 million contract to build, test, verify, and recertify Trident missile inertial measurement units, electronic assemblies, and electronic modules.

The Trident II D5 is one of the most advanced long-range submarine-launched nuclear missiles in the world. It is the primary U.S. sea-based nuclear ballistic missile, and is deployed aboard U.S. Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines.

The U.S. Navy operates 14 of these ballistic missile submarines, each of which can carry as many as 24 Trident II missiles. Although the Trident II is designed to carry as many as 12 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warheads, current treaties reduce this number to four or five.

Each Trident II missile has a range of 4,000 to 7,000 miles. The Trident II D5 was first deployed in 1990 and is scheduled to remain in service until at least 2027.

The Navy started the D5 Life Extension Program in 2002 to replace obsolete components using as many commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) parts as possible to keep costs down and to enhance the missile's capability. Draper Lab is in charge of upgrading the Trident II's guidance system, and has been working on this project since 2005.

Related: Navy plans cyber security upgrades for fleet of submarine-launched nuclear missiles

In practice, the Trident II missile's inertial measurement system receives targeting data from computers aboard the submarine. The inertial measurement unit then transmits signals to the D5 flight-control computer and converts them into steering commands to keep the ballistic missile on target.

The missile's post-boost control system maneuvers the missile in flight to observe stars for the missile's celestial navigation subsystem, which updates the inertial system in flight.

Lockheed Martin also is integrating the Trident II onto the next-generation ballistic submarine designs of the U.S. and United Kingdom by adapting the Trident II missile and reentry subsystems into the common missile compartment for the Ohio replacement and United Kingdom successor programs.

The Ohio replacement is being designed to replace the Navy's fleet of Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. The United Kingdom successor program, meanwhile, will replace the Royal Navy's fleet of Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines.

Related: Navy moves forward on common missile compartment for future U.S. and U.K. nuclear submarine

The U.S. Navy today operates 18 Ohio-class submarines -- 14 of which carry the Trident nuclear missile. Four Ohio-class subs have been modified to carry conventionally armed long-range cruise missiles.

The Ohio-class submarine has been in commission since 1981, and this class is scheduled to be decommissioned and replaced starting in 2029. The United Kingdom Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarine has been at sea since 1993. The Royal Navy operates four Vanguard-class subs.

On Wednesday's order, Lockheed Martin will do the work in Sunnyvale, El Segundo, and Inglewood, Calif.; Magna, Utah; Cape Canaveral, Titusville, and Clearwater, Fla.; Pittsfield, Mass.; Denver; Camden, Ariz.; Kingsport, Tenn.; Kings Bay, Ga.; Lancaster, Pa., and other locations, and should be finished by September 2023.

For more information contact Lockheed Martin Space Systems online at, or the Navy Strategic Systems Programs office at

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About the Author

John Keller | Editor

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

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