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SLBM Trident

posted by Jiri Wagner

Tridents are intercontinental ballistic missiles launched from submarines. Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) have been an integral part of the strategic deterrent for six generations, starting in l956 with the U.S. Navy Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) Polaris (A1) program. Since then, the SLBM has evolved through Polaris (A2), Polaris (A3), Poseidon (C3) and today’s force of Trident I (C4) and Trident II (D5). Each generation has been continuously deployed at sea as a survivable retaliatory force and has been routinely operationally tested and evaluated to maintain confidence and credibility in the deterrent.

Trident I (C4) was first deployed in 1979 and is planned to be deployed until phased out in the early 2000s. Trident II (D5) was first deployed in 1990 and is planned to be deployed past 2020. The Trident II (D5) missile is also provided to the United Kingdom which equips the missile with UK warheads and deploys the missile on Vanguard Class UK submarines.

Trident I (C4) and Trident II (D5) missiles are deployed in Ohio- class (Trident) submarines, each carrying 24 missiles.

The Trident II (D5) is a three-stage, solid-propellant, inertially guided FBM with a range of more than 4,000 nautical miles (4,600 statute miles). Trident II is more sophisticated than Trident I (C4) with a significantly greater payload capability. All three stages of the Trident II are made of lighter, stronger, stiffer graphite epoxy, whose integrated structure means considerable weight saving. The missile’s range is increased by the aerospike, a telescoping outward extension that reduces frontal drag by about 50 percent. Trident II is launched by the pressure of expanding gas within the launch tube. When the missile attains sufficient distance from the submarine, the first stage motor ignites, the aerospike extends and the boost stage begins. Within about two minutes, after the third stage motor kicks in, the missile is traveling in excess of 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) per second.

General characteristic Trident I (C4)

Primary function Strategic Nuclear Deterrence
Contractor Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space, Sunnyvale, Calif.
Propulsion Three-stage solid-propellant rocket
Length 34 ft 10.36 m
Weight 73,000 lb 33,112 kg
Diameter 74 in 188 cm
Range 4,600 miles 7,400 km
Guidance system Inertial
Warhead Nuclear MIRV (Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles)
Deployed 1979

General characteristic Trident II (D5)

Primary function Strategic Nuclear Deterrence
Contractor Lockheed Missiles and Space Co., Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif.
Propulsion Three-stage solid-propellant rocket
Length 44 ft 13.41 m
Weight 130,000 lb 58,967 kg
Diameter 83 in 211 cm
Range more than 4,600 miles More than 7,400 km
Guidance System Inertial
Warheads Nuclear MIRV (Multiple Independently Targetable re-entry Vehicle); Maneuverable Re-entry Vehicle
Unit Cost $30.9 million
Date deployed 1990

Press Releases

Lockheed Martin receiving $14 million annual support contract for the U.K.'s Trident missile program / 2007-04-16

Lockheed Martin receives $135 million contract modification from the Navy for Trident II D5 missile life extension / 2007-04-09


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