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Development of Strategic Weapons Systems Capabilities

 SSP's efforts to modernize weapons systems in support of SBSD 2084 execution, in a dynamic and unpredictable strategic environment, are rooted in the development of the COLUMBIA and UK DREADNOUGHT Strategic Weapons Systems (SWS) and advanced weapon capabilities in the TRIDENT II D5LE2 missile and W93/Mk7 warhead and reentry body assembly. Simultaneously, SSP will develop and deliver the U.S. Navy’s non-nuclear Conventional Prompt Strike Hypersonic Missile capability to fill a critical deterrence gap in our full spectrum of deterrence SWS.


Both OHIO and VANGUARD Class SSBNs continue to provide a superior return on investment to their nations through deterrence of major power conflict for approximately four decades. However, both nations have concluded it is time to make a generational investment into their SBSD to deter potential future transitions from Strategic Competition to Strategic Conflict. The Congress of the U.S. has already approved funding for Hulls 1 and 2 of the COLUMBIA Class SSBN (SSBN 826 and SSBN 827). Planned for a minimum of a 12-ship COLUMBIA Class SSBN fleet, this highly advanced and ultra-quiet submarine is designed with a life of ship reactor core which avoids a loss of operational availability due to a mid-life core refueling as was the case in previous SSBN classes, including OHIO. The Department of Defense (DOD) and Navy were able to capitalize on the demonstrated accuracy and reliability of the Trident II D5 Weapons System to reduce the number of missile tubes on each submarine from 24 to 16, saving critical defense dollars to be invested in other areas of the DOD. The UK is simultaneously developing their four ship UK DREADNOUGHT Class SSBN to replace the VANGUARD submarines as they approach end of life. Both nations built on previous decades of collaboration through the Polaris Sales Agreement and the Mutual Defense Agreement to design and develop a Common Missile Compartment that will support the Trident II D5/D5LE/D5LE2 weapons system while reducing costs and logistical overhead through commonality.
 
Strategic Systems Programs, in close collaboration with Program Executive Office Strategic (PEOSSBN) and their UK counterparts, is overseeing the execution of the Common Missile Compartment (CMC) construction and associated installation into their respective COLUMBIA and DREADNOUGHT submarines. This effort forms the foundation to provide the shipboard systems necessary to support the safety, security, and protection of the D5 missiles and their readiness to launch on order. Throughout the 2020’s, SSP will lead the efforts to build the next generation of flight systems that will provide both the missile and reentry systems necessary to demonstrate a highly capable, reliable, flexible, agile, resilient, survivable, and lethal nuclear weapon system that continues to provide SBSD 2084, promoting world stability and deterrence of Strategic Conflict.
 
The Trident II D5LE weapon system will provide the foundation for U.S. SBSD and UK CASD flight systems through the 2040s, with the final D5LE missile scheduled to be retired in 2049. Recognizing the gradual reduction in D5LE inventory through test flights and routine aging of critical safety components, SSP must provide the nation with a modified flight system, designated the Trident II D5LE2 missile. The D5LE2 missile will be designed to leverage the current stockpile warheads and reentry bodies of the W76/W88 and Mk4/Mk5 families while also incorporating the new W93/Mk7 warhead and reentry body assembly that will reduce stockpile risks and provide broadened targeting options to U.S. Strategic Command.
 
 



The first COLUMBIA will execute her Demonstrated Shakedown and Operations (DASO) for weapons system certification in 2028 using the D5LE system and embark on the first COLUMBIA Class alert patrol in FY31. COLUMBIA Class Hulls 1-8 will leverage the proven Trident II D5LE system, allowing SSP to introduce the new D5LE2 weapon system on a COLUMBIA class platform that will have been proven for a decade at the point of D5LE2 introduction on Hull 9. Through the 2040s, SSP will then help oversee the commissioning of the final COLUMBIA Class SSBNs with the CMC and D5LE2 system, while backfitting Hulls 1-8 during routine maintenance periods executed through 2049.
 
To achieve this transition while meeting the assumptions and requirements of the COLUMBIA Class program, investment into the research and development of new technologies for D5LE2 is essential now and throughout the 2020s to inform the milestones of System Requirements Review in 2025, Preliminary Design Review in 2028 and the Critical Design Review in 2032. Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) will commence in 2034 to enable both a buildup of the production industrial base as well as to provide test bodies to execute a series of land-based pad testing from Cape Canaveral culminating in at sea flight testing from an SSBN in 2036. This gradual buildup of production capability simultaneously executed with D5LE2 flight testing will support the inventory requirements of full boat loadouts starting in 2039 without having to invest in excess production capacity that would support significant production over a short period of time but wasted resources in the long term.
 
The Reentry Systems team at SSP will complement the Missile Branch’s efforts through the 2020s and 2030s to build more capability and resilience into the Navy’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. While maintaining surveillance and oversight of the W76/W88 families of warheads, SSP will lead efforts in conjunction with the National Nuclear Security Administration within the Department of Energy under the interagency Nuclear Weapons Life Cycle process to design, develop, and produce the W93/Mk7 warhead and reentry system as well as the Next Nuclear Warhead (NNW) to life extend or replace the W88-0/Mk5 ALT 370 system.
 
Ultimately, all of these efforts are intended to meet the dynamic and uncertain demands of evolving future threats through 2084. Strategic Systems Programs will leverage the existing margin with D5LE to support current and future warheads (W76/W88/W93) until 2039. At that time, SSP will introduce D5LE2 which will utilize state of the art materials and avionics architectures to unlock additional capabilities required to support the payloads of the future.

Conventional Prompt Strike

While the Nuclear Triad has historically provided and continues to provide the most effective deterrent against Strategic Conflict, the nation recognizes the need for other strategic deterrent capabilities to address gaps in the full spectrum of deterrence. Both China and Russia are rapidly developing robust hypersonic weapon capabilities and U.S. national leadership is committed to pacing this threat by developing American non-nuclear hypersonic capability. The Department of Defense determined the best approach to deliver a hypersonic weapons capability that would provide multiple threat vectors against any potential enemy was a joint program between the Departments of Army and Navy. The Navy selected SSP to oversee this fast-paced mid-tier acquisition program, designated Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS), based on decades of delivering premier underwater launched nuclear delivery systems.

Strategic Systems Programs, in close collaboration with the Army, is overseeing the execution of the CPS program to deliver fielded Army hypersonic weapon system capability in FY23, surfaced launched CPS capability on ZUMWALT (DDG-1000) in FY 25 along with expanded Army capability that same year, and underwater launched hypersonic weapon capability to the Submarine Force on the VIRGINIA Class in FY28. To achieve this critical strategic priority, SSP must work closely with the broader Navy team and industry partners to build new supporting infrastructure and expand the industrial base to achieve production and sustainment capacities as well as cost points that will deliver a long-term, highly capable nonnuclear hypersonic strategic weapon system to the warfighter. The CPS Program will design, build, and sustain an evolving multi-service hypersonic capability at the speed of relevance for the warfighter by aligning national resources, strengthening partnerships, and fostering an agility-centered culture. 

 

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