The Navy is happy to share knowledge about weapons with the Air Force, so long as it does not actually have to share a nuclear weapon with the Air Force, the sea service’s director for strategic systems programs said Tuesday.
“I think a couple years ago, commonality started to put us on a path where I’m not sure it was getting the teams where it needed to get us,” Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe said during a question and answer session at the annual Naval Submarine League Symposium.
The Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines now carry Trident II-D5 missiles, tipped with W88 and W76 warheads. The successor Columbia submarines, the first of which is scheduled to begin patrols in the early 2030s, will also carry Trident missiles.
Successor missiles to Trident could carry the proposed, but unfunded, W93 warhead, which would use the Navy’s Mark 7 aeroshell: a reentry body the service is now free to develop, since the Trump administration dumped the Obama administration’s plan to pursue a so-called interoperable warhead that could have tipped both Air Force and Navy ballistic missiles.
On Tuesday, Wolfe said the Air Force and the Navy still cooperate, after a fashion, on nuclear weapons development. Or, at least, on tools that can be used to develop nuclear weapons.
In its Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Program, the planned replacement for the Minuteman III series of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Air Force has “started down this path of model-based systems engineering,” Wolfe said, “They have come a long way in model-based systems engineering. We’ve got a team that is collaborating with them almost weekly on getting the lessons learned as we get into model-based systems engineering for our follow on system” Wolfe said.
In model-based engineering, designers collaborate by sharing visual and other types of models, rather than documents. The Air Force is high on the approach and, dating even since the early stages of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent procurement in 2017, has touted the process as a transformative wave for military hardware acquisition.
Technologies, if not common, can at least be “complementary,” Wolfe said.