What is the US nuclear submarine test missile?

US military nuclear submarine conducts “Trident II-D5” submarine-launched ballistic missile test

Recently, the US Navy conducted a test of the Trident II-D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) near Southern California, which was carried out by the “Ohio”-class strategic nuclear submarine “Nebraska” (SSBN-739). Two test launches were carried out on 4th and 6th of September, and a total of four missile bodies without warheads were launched. This test is part of the Commander’s Assessment Test (CET) to verify that the performance of the modified Trident II-D5 missile meets the actual standards.

The Trident II-D5 missile is not a new type of weapon, it was in service as early as 1990. Although the Trident II is known as a modified version of the Trident I type, its impact accuracy is higher, the load and range are improved a lot, the maximum range is up to 12,000 kilometers, and it has a hit accuracy of 130-200 meters. Considered as a subversive submarine-launched missile.

Why is the Trident II not a new concept weapon but a subversive submarine-launched missile? The missile launched from the submarine, the stability of the launching platform is far less than that of the missile launched on land, so its accuracy is generally not as high as that of land-based missiles, and the range and warhead load are not as good as land-based missiles. However, the Trident II is the first advanced submarine-launched missile with performance similar to that of the contemporary land-based missile. In other words, the terrestrial missile can do the Trident II, and the Trident II can do things. Land-based missiles can’t do it!

According to the traditional nuclear strategy theory, land-based missiles are generally used as the first wave of nuclear assault weapons because of their large range of warheads. They are used to destroy or weaken the enemy’s nuclear counterattack forces and important military nodes. Almost, but the submarine is hidden deep under the sea and can run around the sea, so it is regarded as the second wave of nuclear counterattack. The performance of the Trident II is similar to that of a land-based missile, so it can be used both as a nuclear counterattack weapon and as a first wave of nuclear assault forces.

Because the performance of the Trident II is so superior, its nuclear deterrent is also very powerful. The US military only needs a small number of nuclear submarines to achieve the same nuclear deterrent, which is why the US military now has 70% of nuclear deterrent forces at sea. In the 1990s, the US Navy had 14 Ohio-class nuclear submarines, each capable of carrying 24 Trident II missiles. The United Kingdom has given up its own research and development of intercontinental missiles, and directly purchased the Trident II missile equipped with avant-garde missile submarines, which can also carry 16 pieces.

In short, the Trident II is by far the only intercontinental submarine-launched missile in the world equipped with two countries, and the reliability is still unmatched. After the missile was designed in 1989, it has successfully tested 176 times. The only failure was the launch of the Royal Navy’s avant-garde revenge submarine (S31) in June 2016.

From the current performance point of view, Trident II is likely to be a near-perfect weapon. Its indicators still do not have a submarine-launched missile. Compared with Russia, Russia has just developed and prepared to equip the troops. The operational performance of the 26 submarine-launched missiles is also close to the Trident II, and the reliability is still far less than the Trident series.

Since combat performance has always been ahead of the world, the United States has not had much motivation to improve the weapons of this equipment unit for nearly 30 years. Although it is customary for the United States to upgrade its missile submarines, it will be equipped with new submarine-launched missiles. However, the fifth-generation Columbia-class missile submarine has been determined to be launched in 2028, and the new generation of submarine-launched missiles has been missing. The Pentagon has already said that it will be equipped with Trident II as a submarine weapon at the beginning of the Columbia service. The missile has no fixed timetable for the time being.

Of course, the service of the Trident II has not been improved for nearly 30 years. The US military has continuously updated its guidance system and the insurance, fuze and ignition devices of the nuclear warhead to achieve the purpose of prolonging the life and improving the accuracy of the missile. This test is just to test whether the actual performance of the extended life is up to standard. From the two double burst test, the test should be successfully achieved.

Although the US military gives the impression that it is very advanced and has a variety of black technology new concept weapons, from the perspective of the development process of the Trident series of missiles, the US military has always attached great importance to the reliability of weapons and equipment, especially as a core strategic deterrent. The intercontinental missile weapon, the United States basically adopts a development strategy of improving and optimizing, through technology accumulation from quantitative to qualitative change. It will not easily promote new concepts, nor will it develop new missiles at will, so as to achieve the goal of balance between reliability and advancement. This kind of weapon development strategy needs strong scientific research strength and technical reserves to support it. Other countries, although they understand it, are not easy to learn.