Navy tests life-extended Trident missile from ballistic missile sub

By Justin Katz / February 18, 2020 at 10:05 AM

The Navy Saturday tested a life-extended Trident II D5LE missile from an Ohio-class submarine off the coast of California, according to a service statement.

"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) . . . on the Western Test Range off the coast of San Diego, California," the statement said.

The "test validated performance expectations of the life-extended Trident II (D5LE) Strategic Weapon System (SWS), and gathered additional data on the SWS' reliability, accuracy, and performance factors," the statement continued.

The service is staring down a shortfall of its current inventory of Trident missiles, which already underwent a life extension in 2002. The Navy envisions the weapon system arming the Columbia-class submarines through the 2080s.

"As we deploy those [Columbia-class submarines] we are going to physically run out of Trident D5 missiles," Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe, a Navy flag officer overseeing the weapon program, told attendees at an industry gathering in 2018. "We bought an inventory of 533 [missiles]. We're no longer producing equipment sections; we're no longer producing post boosts."

Wolfe's office, Strategic Systems Programs, published a solicitation in February 2019 asking industry to outline interest in competing for trade studies to propose options for a second life extension of the Trident past 2042, the end of its current service life.

"SSP requires engineering services and studies for risk mitigation technology, hardware, and architectures to alter . . . the Trident II D5LE missile for material and component obsolescence, extending its life to provide a strategic submarine launched ballistic missile capability for the life of the Columbia-class submarine SSBNs (2083)," according to the public notice.