22 September 2016
The U.S. Navy is in the “very early phases” of exploring what the successor to its Trident II D-5 ballistic missile will look like, a service official said Sept. 22.
Navy engineers “have begun evaluating the technology areas that need to be examined” to develop the new submarine-launched, nuclear-armed missile, said Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, director of Navy Strategic Systems Programs. The service has also had preliminary discussions with high-level decision-makers, including the Joint Staff, the Pentagon’s acquisition and policy offices, and U.S. Strategic Command.
First deployed in 1990, the Lockheed Martin [LMT] D-5 is undergoing a life extension program. But a new missile will be needed in the “2040-ish” timeframe, when the Navy’s inventory of D-5s is projected to fall below required levels, Benedict said.
Another conference speaker, Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, said his service is pursuing “smart commonality” between its future Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) and the Navy’s nuclear missile efforts. The Air Force also is looking for commonality with the Missile Defense Agency’s long-range, ground-based interceptors and with space systems.
GBSD will replace the aging Boeing [BA] Minuteman 3 ICBM. The Air Force issued a request for proposals for GBSD’s technology maturation and risk reduction phase in July, and bids are due in October.
Jamie Morin, director of the Pentagon’s Office of Cost Analysis and Program Evaluation (CAPE), said DoD’s nuclear triad modernization programs are on the “right footing.” The Navy’s Ohio Replacement Program, for instance, “was founded on a pretty rigorous scrub of requirements” and is poised to develop a submarine that minimizes risk by using existing state-of-the-art technology instead of the “next decade’s technology," he said.
According to Benedict, the Common Missile
Compartment (CMC), which the Navy is developing with the United Kingdom for new nuclear-armed submarines, “is shifting from design to production in both the U.S. and the U.K. The U.S. just celebrated its ‘cut steel,’ and the United Kingdom is about to do that imminently.” The Navy has awarded a contract to General Dynamics [GD] Electric Boat for the first 17 missile tubes and is preparing to issue a contract for the second purchase, Benedict added.