A US Navy Ohio class ballistic missile submarine completed a Follow-on Commander’s Evaluation Test resulting in four successful test flights of Trident II D5 missiles, say the US Navy.
Designated FCET-53, the operation spanned a three-day period. According to the US Navy, the primary objective of an FCET is ‘to obtain, under operationally representative conditions, valid reliability, accuracy, and performance of the missile system for use by Commander, Strategic Command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff’.
The US Navy said:
“Safety of the public was paramount throughout the mission. The missiles were unarmed and all launches were conducted from the sea, flew over the sea, and landed in the sea. At no time did the missiles fly over land.
A credible, effective nuclear deterrent is essential to national security and the security of US allies and friends.
The Trident II D5 missile is a submarine-launched ballistic missile which is one part of the nation’s strategic deterrent triad. As the most survivable leg of the triad, it provides the national command authority with assured second-strike capability.
Since its introduction to the fleet in 1989, the Trident II D5 missile has completed 165 successful test flights.”
The D5 is the sixth in a series of missile generations deployed since the sea-based deterrent program began 60 years ago. The Trident D5LE (life-extension) version will remain in service until 2042. Lockheed Martin designs and manufactures the Trident II Missile as well as all prior generations of US Fleet Ballistic Missiles.
Earlier in the year, The Sunday Times reported that a Trident II D5 missile “veered off in the wrong direction towards America” after being launched from HMS Vengeance. The problem was reportedly with telemetric directional data, i.e. faulty information being received from the missile. The test was part of a demonstration and shakedown operation that saw HMS Vengeance returned to service in the same month, June last year.
Paul Ingram, executive director of the British American Information Council told the Guardian that the telemetric data issue suggests a minor error, rather than a failure on the part of the rocket engine or guidance.
“It is a complex system. It is an amazing feat of human engineering but everything has to work or there is catastrophic failure and a catastrophic failure can have catastrophic consequences.”
There have been 165 successful test flights of the D5 missile since design completion in 1989. There have been fewer than 10 test flights that were failures, the most recent being from HMS Vengeance off the coast of Florida in June 2016.