Trident missile

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The Trident fleet ballistic missile is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launched from submarines.

Trident I (C4) was first deployed in 1979 and gradually phased out through the 1990s and early 2000s. Trident II (D5) was first deployed in 1990 and is planned to be deployed past 2020. The Trident II (D5) missile is also provided to the United Kingdom which equips the missile with UK warheads and deploys the missile on Vanguard-class UK submarines.

The Trident II (D5) is a three-stage, solid-propellant, inertially guided FBM with a range of more than 7400 kilometers (4600 statute miles). Trident II is more sophisticated than Trident I (C4) with a significantly greater payload capability. All three stages of the Trident II are made of lighter, stronger, stiffer graphite epoxy, whose integrated structure means considerable weight saving.

The range of both models of the missile is increased by the aerospike, a telescoping outward extension that reduces frontal drag by about 50 percent. They are ejected from their launch tubes by gas pressure created by a "gas generator," a solid fuel rocket motor attached to the bottom of the missile tube and exhausting into it. After the missile leaves the tube and rises through the water over the submarine (in a bubble of gas -- water never contacts the missile) the first stage motor ignites, the aerospike extends, and the boost stage begins. Within about two minutes, after the third stage motor kicks in, the missile is traveling in excess of 6100 meters (20,000 feet) per second.

General Characteristics, Trident I (C4)

  • Primary Function: Strategic Nuclear Deterrence
  • Contractor: Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space, Sunnyvale, Calif.
  • Propulsion: Three-stage solid-propellant rocket
  • Length: 34 feet (10.2 meters)
  • Weight: 73,000 pounds (33,142 kg)
  • Diameter: 74 inches (1.8 meters)
  • Range: 7400 kilometers (4,600 statute miles)
  • Guidance System: Inertial
  • Warhead: Nuclear Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRV)
  • Date Deployed: 1979

General Characteristics, Trident II (D5)

  • Primary Function: Strategic Nuclear Deterrence
  • Contractor: Lockheed Missiles and Space Co., Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif.
  • Unit Cost: $30.9 million
  • Power Plant: Three-stage solid-propellant rocket
  • Length: 44 feet (13.41 meters)
  • Weight: 130,000 pounds (58,500 kg)
  • Diameter: 83 inches (2.11 meters)
  • Range: Greater than 7400 kilometers (4,600 statute miles)
  • Guidance System: Inertial
  • Warhead: Nuclear Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRV)
  • Date Deployed: 1990

Trident I (C4) missiles were, and Trident II (D5) missiles are, deployed in Ohio-class submarines, each capable of carrying 24 missiles.

See also Polaris missile and Poseidon missile.