The United States Navy launched an unarmed life-extended Trident II D5 missile (D5LE) from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) USS Kentucky (SSBN-737) off the coast of southern California on June 17, 2022.
The test launch was one of four conducted on June 15 and 17 as part of a U.S. Navy Commander Evaluation Test (CET), validating performance expectations of the Trident II D5LE strategic weapon system.
The U.S. Navy conducts CETs and other missile flight tests to evaluate and ensure the system’s continued reliability, readiness, and accuracy. The tests are not conducted in response to specific events. A credible, effective nuclear deterrent is essential to U.S. national security and the security of U.S. allies.
Submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) are one leg of the nation’s strategic nuclear deterrent triad that also includes the U.S. Air Force’s land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and its B-2 and B-52H nuclear-capable strategic bombers. Each part of the triad provides unique capabilities and advantages. SLBMs, which make up about 70 percent of the United States’ deployed strategic nuclear deterrent triad, are the most survivable leg and provide persistent presence.
The Trident II D5 strategic weapon system, originally designed with a life span to 2024, recently underwent an extension that will keep it operational through the late 2040s. The D5LE missiles will serve for the remaining service life of U.S. Ohio-class and United Kingdom Vanguard-class SSBNs, and as the initial load-out 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.