U.S. Navy Launches Two Unarmed Trident II Nuclear Capable Missiles From USS Wyoming Submarine

An unarmed Trident II D5LE missile launches from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Wyoming off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Fla., during a test on Friday. Photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist David Holmes/U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy conducted a two-missile test flight of unarmed life-extended Trident II-D5LE missiles from the USS Wyoming in the Eastern Test Range off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Fla, over the weekend, according to the U.S. Navy Strategic Systems Programs.

The Wyoming is an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, with Friday’s test meant to evaluate the readiness of the vessel’s Strategic Weapons System and crew ahead of an upcoming refueling overhaul.

The Navy announced that the Trident II missiles have undergone ‘a life extension program to address potential impacts from aging and obsolescence’ and are now ready to be deployed along with the rest of the fleet alongside the UK Vanguard-class, US Colombia-class, UK Dreadnought-class. 

“The DASO test, and others like these, underscore our readiness and capability for 21st Century Strategic Deterrence,” Rear Adm. Thomas E. Ishee, USSTRATCOM director of Global Operations, said in a press release.

“SSBN crews undergo constant training and regularly planned testing to ensure the weapon systems remain ready and reliable. The sailors and support element who make up the silent service prove every day they are capable and prepared to protect America and its allies,” Ishee said.

The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay following routine operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rex Nelson/Released)

The Pentagon has recently put Trident II D5 missiles through a life extension program to prevent potential aging and obsolescence impacts, and make the missiles usable until at least 2040.

The life-extended Trident II, or D5LE, missiles will now be deployed to the Ohio-class and Britain Vanguard-class SSBNs, and the initial load-out for the U.S. Columbia-class and Britain Dreadnought-class SSBNs, the Navy said.

The test launch Friday marked the 184th successful missile test flight of the Trident II (D5 and D5LE) SWS.

“Today’s test demonstrates the unmatched reliability of our sea-based nuclear deterrent, which is made possible by a dedicated team of military, civilian and industry partners who bring expertise and dedication to the mission that is truly extraordinary,” Vice Admiral Johnny R. Wolfe, director of Navy Strategic Systems Programs said in Friday’s statement.

“This same team is now developing the next generation of the Trident Strategic Weapon System, which will extend our sea-based strategic deterrent through 2084,” Wolfe added.

Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles make up approximately 70% of the sea-based leg of the nation’s strategic nuclear deterrent triad, which also includes the U.S. Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear-capable bombers.

The US has a fleet of 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. The country currently has the largest fleet of submarines in the world
The US has a fleet of 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. The country currently has the largest fleet of submarines in the world.

The US has a fleet of 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines which carry about half of the US active strategic thermo-nuclear warheads. Every submarine carries 24 trident missiles carrying up to 8 nuclear warheads.  

The 14 ballistic missile submarines primarily serve as nuclear deterrence to display the country’s readiness and capability to defend itself and allies.  

Each Ohio-class submarine estimated an annual cost of $170 million, equating to the US spending $2.4 billion a year on operating these deterrence ships. 

America’s naval force is projected to have about 66 submarines by the end of the decade, while China will have around 80 – most of them nuclear powered.

Despite being scheduled, the nuclear ballistic missile submarines comes as the US has penned a deal to work with the UK to build nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.

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