The Pentagon is pursuing modifications to its present Trident II D5 submarine-launched, nuclear-armed ballistic missile as a part of a broader strategic effort to engineer a brand new “low-yield” warhead – in alignment with DoD’s Nuclear Posture Evaluate (NPR).
The NPR, launched final 12 months by the Trump administration and Pentagon, requires the addition of recent low-yield nuclear weapons to extend the sphere of deterrence choices out there to US commanders.
“The modifications to a small variety of submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) to offer a low-yield possibility and the pursuit of a contemporary nuclear-armed Sea-Launched Cruise Missile will present further variety in platforms, vary and survivability, and a precious hedge in opposition to future nuclear “break-out” eventualities,” Pentagon spokesperson Johnny Michael instructed Warrior Maven.
A senior Navy official instructed Warrior that the modifications contain engineering a brand new reentry physique or “warhead” for the missile.
“Because it presently stands, the Trident can carry the W76-1 of W88. ‘If’ there was a low-yield possibility, it could be a 3rd kind of warhead the missile ‘might’ carry,” the official mentioned.
Builders clarify that new, lower-yield reentry our bodies would, consistent with the meant operational perform of the Trident II D5, exist for one, singular — but crucial– objective.
“In contrast to the quick assault submarine that’s multi-mission, the SSBN (nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine) has one objective – to hold the Trident II D5. The Trident II D5 can also be single objective. Whereas it will possibly carry several types of reentry our bodies (W76s & W88s), it has one single objective – strategic nuclear deterrence with assured second strike functionality. It’s not tactical. It’s not standard. So its sole objective, that’s the missile, is to hold reentry our bodies,” John Daniels, Public Affairs Officer for the Navy’s Strategic Programs Packages instructed Warrior Maven
For years, senior Navy and Pentagon leaders have mentioned the “Sea Leg” of the nuclear triad meant to stop catastrophic nuclear battle. It hinges upon what is likely to be referred to as a paradox; weapons of huge harmful energy – able to killing hundreds of thousands — are engineered to “hold the peace.” In truth, an Air Pressure 3-Star answerable for constructing new ICBMs instructed Warrior Maven in a earlier interview that, for the reason that daybreak of the nuclear period, there has not been “main” energy warfare like that which the world noticed in WWII.
Accordingly, this obvious contradiction defining the existence of nuclear weapons – is saving lives. The undersea portion of the general nuclear triad — which consists of land-fired ICBMs, air-launched nuclear weapons, and sea-launched ballistic missiles — is of key significance to making sure a second strike. Within the occasion that land and/or air nuclear weapons had been broken or destroyed in a catastrophic first-strike nuclear assault, sea-launched nuclear-armed missiles would guarantee the whole destruction of the attackers. This, in keeping with strategic deterrence technique — merely prevents nuclear battle from ever beginning.
TRIDENT II D5 Into 2040s
Potential modifications to engineer a low-yield possibility for the Trident’s warhead, would probably be long-lasting, given the present Navy plan for the missile.
The Navy has been working with Lockheed on a Trident II D5 life-extension program aimed toward guaranteeing the weapon can serve nicely into the 2040s.
A brand new, life-extended variant, referred to as the Trident II D5LE, was first put in in 2017, arming the fleet with an upgraded weapon, in keeping with a Navy reality sheet. The three-stage ballistic missile can journey a nominal vary of 4,000 nautical miles and carry a number of independently focused reentry our bodies, in keeping with Navy and Lockheed data.
Lately, the Navy as been working with Lockheed on a variety of key technical upgrades to each modernize and maintain the nuclear weapon. A few of these are ongoing, and others have made ample progress, laying the muse for next-stage sustainment efforts, Navy officers instructed Warrior.
This has included work on the missile’s Mk-6 steering system, with a particular concentrate on the weapon’s digital modules, Navy builders have mentioned.
Hans Kristensen, Nuclear Data Challenge on the Federation of American Scientists, instructed Warrior Maven that the D5LE variant will increase precision and concentrating on through the use of two stars for navigation — as an alternative of 1. “This gives extra flexibility with regard to the submarine’s exact place,” Kristensen mentioned.
Additionally, as talked about by Michaels, the Pentagon’s NPR additionally requires a nuclear-armed Sea-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM). Cruise missiles can fly nearer to the floor on extra of a linear trajectory – and doubtlessly function in nearer proximity to the attacking submarine. This, by design, might supply a variety of lower-yield, extra exact nuclear strikes – ought to they be ordered.
Apparently, historians clarify that the Navy’s Tomahawk missile was at one level armed with a nuclear weapon – and senior Navy leaders have particularly instructed Congress the service is exploring choices to arm the Virginia-class assault submarines with nuclear weapons.
Former Protection Secretary James Mattis instructed Congress final 12 months that the NPR plan to develop new, lower-yield nuclear weapons is particularly aimed toward addressing Russia’s violation of the INF treaty. Michaels confirmed this:
“The SLCM may also present an arms control-compliant response to Russia’s non-compliance with the INF Treaty, its non-strategic nuclear arsenal, and its different destabilizing conduct,” Michaels mentioned.
Some members of Congress have raised the query as as to whether the introduction of lower-yield nuclear weapons might each encourage a brand new arms race and decrease the edge to nuclear battle. Senior Pentagon weapons builders have persistently emphasised that the plan is meant to attain the reverse impact, and performance as an alternative as a vital new layer of wanted deterrence.
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