U.S. Navy tests updated Trident II missile system


The United States Navy successfully launched an unarmed life-extended Trident II D5 (D5LE) from the ballistic missile submarine USS Kentucky off the Southern California coast June 17, 2022.

The missile’s test launch, pictured, was one of four conducted June 15-17 as part of a Navy Commander Evaluation Test (CET), which validates performance of the Trident II D5LE strategic weapons system.

The Navy conducts CETs and other missile flight tests to evaluate and ensure the system’s reliability, readiness and accuracy. An effective nuclear deterrent is essential to U.S. national security and the security of allies and partners.

The tests are not conducted in response to specific world events.

Submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) are one leg of the nation’s nuclear triad that includes the U.S. Air Force’s land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and its B-2 and B-52H nuclear-capable bombers. Each part of the triad provides unique capabilities and advantages. The SLBMs, which make up about 70% of the deployed U.S. nuclear deterrent, are the most survivable leg of the triad.

The Trident II D5 strategic weapons system — originally designed with a life span to 2024 — recently underwent an extension that will keep it operational through the 2040s. These D5LE missiles will serve for the remaining service life of U.S. Ohio-class and United Kingdom Vanguard-class SSBNs, and as the initial missiles for the U.S. Columbia-class and U.K. Dreadnought-class SSBNs.

The U.S. Navy has 14 SSBNs in its fleet, with each carrying up to 20 Trident II D5 SLBMs. The SSBNs, or “boomers,” normally spend about 77 days at sea followed by several weeks in port for maintenance. Each SSBN has two crews, blue and gold, which alternate manning the submarine during patrols at sea.

The SSBN is an undetectable launch platform.