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U.S. Navy test fires Trident missile as tensions heat up with Russia and North Korea

February 17, 2017 (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy)
The U.S. Navy announced Thursday it had conducted a test launch of its Trident II D5 missile from an Ohio class ballistic missile submarine assigned to Submarine Group 9, out of Bangor, Washington.

The test launch of the nuclear capable missile system was part of regular tests that “are conducted on a frequent, recurring basis to ensure the continued reliability of the system,” said John Daniels, a spokesman for the Strategic Systems Program, which oversees the Ohio-class Trident submarine program.

The successful exercise was a culmination of a three-day training operation that saw the launch of four missiles. The missiles were unarmed during the training evolution and were launched from the sea and landed in the sea. “All missiles are tracked from multiple sources from launch until final impact in the ocean,” Daniels said.

The launch of the Trident systems comes during increased tensions between the United States and rivals Russia and North Korea.

On Monday, North Korean officials announced the successful test of the Pukguksong-2, a nuclear capable medium to long range ballistic missile, which landed in the Sea of Japan, according to  Reuters.

The North Korea provocation was then followed by reports that Russia had secretly deployed cruise missiles in violation of a 1987 treaty banning intermediate range land based missiles between the two former Cold War rivals, according to a report by the New York Times

However, Navy officials contend that “test flights were not conducted in response to any ongoing world events or as a demonstration of power,” Daniels said.

The Trident II D5 missile is an intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of carrying a nuclear payload, with a range of 4,000 nautical miles. The Trident is deployed on Ohio-class submarines, which are capable of carrying 24 missiles, according to Navy officials.

The Trident II D5 has been in service since 1989, with plans to remain in service past 2020, according to the Navy.

Submarine-launched ballistic missiles are one leg of a U.S. nuclear Triad system that includes land based intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers. The submarine nuclear deterrent has been an important aspect of U.S. defense strategy since 1956, and is considered the “most survivable leg of the strategic deterrent Triad,” Daniels said.  

Shawn Snow is a staff writer and Military Times' Early Bird editor. On Twitter:  @SnowSox184.


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