U.S. nuclear weapons modernization continues; Lockheed Martin to build submarine ballistic missiles

WASHINGTON – U.S. military leaders are moving forward toward their goal of modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal with a nearly half-billion-dollar deal to Lockheed Martin Corp. on Friday to build new submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

U.S. nuclear weapons modernization continues; Lockheed Martin to build submarine ballistic missiles
U.S. nuclear weapons modernization continues; Lockheed Martin to build submarine ballistic missiles
WASHINGTON – U.S. military leaders are moving forward toward their goal of modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal with a nearly half-billion-dollar deal to Lockheed Martin Corp. on Friday to build new submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Officials of the U.S. Navy Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) office in Washington awarded a $418.7 million order the Lockheed Martin Space Systems segment in Sunnyvale, Calif., to provide new procurement of Trident II (D5) missile production and D5 deployed systems support.

The UGM-133A Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles support the U.S. sea-based atomic missile infrastructure. President Donald Trump has said one of his highest military priorities is to revitalize the nation's nuclear forces.

Friday's contract modification consists of new Trident II D5 procurement, D5 life extension production, and D5 deployed systems support.

Related: Draper Lab continues program to enhance accuracy of submarine-launched nuclear missiles

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: Nuclear ballistic missile command and control technology still a prime military concern

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 future U.S. Columbia-class Ohio replacement submarine and United Kingdom Dreadnought-class Vanguard successor submarine.

The future U.S. Columbia-class fleet ballistic missile submarine, being designed to replace the Navy's fleet of Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, should enter service in 2031. The United Kingdom Dreadnought submarine, to replace the Royal Navy's Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines, should enter service in 2028.

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

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

The Ohio-class submarines have been in commission since 1981, and are 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 this contract modification Lockheed Martin will do the work in Sunnyvale, Calif.; Cape Canaveral and Orlando, Fla.; Kings Bay, Ga.; Bangor, Wash.; and Magna, Utah, and should be finished by September 2022.

For more information contact Lockheed Martin Space Systems online at www.lockheedmartin.com/us/ssc.html, or the Navy Strategic Systems Program office at www.ssp.navy.mil.

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