Last month, the U.S. Navy test-fired two of its Trident II (D-5) Fleet Ballistic Missiles in the Atlantic Ocean. The Navy launches the missiles periodically to make sure they are working correctly. The two missiles fired in September performed flawlessly — which means that all 129 flight tests of the Trident II over the past 20 years have been successful. You can’t do better than that: a perfect record for a very sophisticated piece of equipment.
Unlike land-based missiles, Tridents must be ejected into the air from a submerged platform before igniting. They also need to hit targets thousands of miles away with pinpoint accuracy even though the submarine carrying them moves constantly. The fact that they have been able to do that with perfect reliability since first being deployed in 1990 is one big reason why few countries want to mess with America.
In the years ahead, Trident missiles and the subs that carry them are likely to become even more crucial to nuclear deterrence. U.S. bombers seldom carry atomic warheads anymore, and the Quadrennial Defense Review will propose reducing the number of Minutemen III missiles in the nuclear force. So Trident will provide the backbone of the future deterrent force. It’s good to know something that important always works as advertised, 100% of the time.
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