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 Overview (NPR).
The NPR, launched final yr 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 choice and the pursuit of a contemporary nuclear-armed Sea-Launched Cruise Missile will present further variety in platforms, vary and survivability, and a worthwhile hedge towards future nuclear “break-out” eventualities,” Pentagon spokesperson Johnny Michael informed Warrior Maven.
A senior Navy official informed 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 choice, it will be a 3rd kind of warhead the missile ‘may’ carry,” the official stated.
Builders clarify that new, lower-yield reentry our bodies would, in line with the supposed operational perform of the Trident II D5, exist for one, singular — but crucial– function.
“In contrast to the quick assault submarine that’s multi-mission, the SSBN (nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine) has one function – to hold the Trident II D5. The Trident II D5 can be single function. Whereas it will probably carry several types of reentry our bodies (W76s & W88s), it has one single function – strategic nuclear deterrence with assured second strike functionality. It’s not tactical. It’s not typical. So its sole function, that’s the missile, is to hold reentry our bodies,” John Daniels, Public Affairs Officer for the Navy’s Strategic Techniques Packages informed Warrior Maven
For years, senior Navy and Pentagon leaders have mentioned the “Sea Leg” of the nuclear triad supposed to stop catastrophic nuclear conflict. It hinges upon what is perhaps known as a paradox; weapons of huge damaging energy – able to killing hundreds of thousands — are engineered to “maintain the peace.” In actual fact, an Air Power 3-Star accountable for constructing new ICBMs informed Warrior Maven in a earlier interview that, because the 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 have 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 conflict from ever beginning.
TRIDENT II D5 Into 2040s
Potential modifications to engineer a low-yield choice for the Trident’s warhead, would seemingly 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 making certain the weapon can serve properly into the 2040s.
A brand new, life-extended variant, known 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 info.
Lately, the Navy as been working with Lockheed on quite a lot of key technical upgrades to each modernize and maintain the nuclear weapon. A few of these are ongoing, and others have made enough progress, laying the inspiration for next-stage sustainment efforts, Navy officers informed Warrior.
This has included work on the missile’s Mk-6 steerage system, with a particular give attention to the weapon’s digital modules, Navy builders have stated.
Hans Kristensen, Nuclear Info Undertaking on the Federation of American Scientists, informed Warrior Maven that the D5LE variant will increase precision and focusing on through the use of two stars for navigation — as a substitute of 1. “This supplies extra flexibility with regard to the submarine’s exact place,” Kristensen stated.
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, may provide a spread 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 informed Congress the service is exploring choices to arm the Virginia-class assault submarines with nuclear weapons.
Former Protection Secretary James Mattis informed Congress final yr 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 can even 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 stated.
Some members of Congress have raised the query as as to whether the introduction of lower-yield nuclear weapons may each encourage a brand new arms race and decrease the brink to nuclear conflict. Senior Pentagon weapons builders have constantly emphasised that the plan is meant to attain the reverse impact, and performance as a substitute as an important new layer of wanted deterrence.
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