The U.S. Navy conducted a scheduled, one-missile test flight of an unarmed life-extended Trident II (D5LE) missile from USS Maine (SSBN-741), an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, on the Western Test Range off the coast of San Diego, California, on Feb 12.
This was part of a Demonstration and Shakedown Operation, designated DASO-30. The primary objective of a DASO is to evaluate and demonstrate the readiness of the SSBN’s strategic weapon system and crew before operational deployment following the submarine’s engineered refueling overhaul.
This launch marks 177 successful missile launches of the Trident II (D5 & D5LE) strategic weapon system (SWS).
“Today’s test demonstrates the continued reliability of our sea-based nuclear deterrent, which is made possible by our sailors, civilians and industry partners who bring expertise and dedication to the mission that is unmatched by any other country,” said Vice Adm. Johnny R. Wolfe, director of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs. “These same teams are now developing the next generation of the Trident strategic weapon system, which will extend our sea-based deterrent for the next 40 years.”
The Trident II (D5) missiles recently underwent a life extension program to address potential impacts from aging and obsolescence. The life-extended missiles – Trident II (D5LE) – are now being deployed to the US Fleet and will serve for the remaining service life of U.S Ohio-class and United Kingdom Vanguard -class SSBNs, and as the initial loadout for the U.S. Columbia-class and U.K. Dreadnought-class SSBNs.
The U.S. Navy’s last DASO was in May 2019 off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, from USS Rhode Island (SSBN-740). The U.S. Navy’s most recent flight test – a Commander’s Evaluation Test – was a series of four launches from USS Nebraska (SSBN-739) in September 2019 off the coast of Southern California. All five of these 2019 flight tests were of the life-extended Trident II (D5LE).
Flight test missiles are not armed. Safety of the public and the crew conducting the mission is paramount. The last launch was conducted from sea, the missile flew over the sea, and landed in the sea. At no time did the missile fly over land.