A top Navy official on Thursday said the next-generation submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) to be featured on the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine will incorporate some elements of the current Trident D5 Life Extension (D5LE) weapon.
Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe, director of Strategic Systems Programs (SSP), told the Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium on Thursday the follow-on missile is being dubbed the Trident D5LE2.
The current Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines are armed with the D5LE and the Navy expects to eventually add the new life extension DGLE2 model to the Columbia-class boats.
The Navy will initially arm the Columbia boats with the D5LE to reduce the technical and schedule risk in the Columbia program. Only later in the service life of the submarines will they receive the D5LE2.
“What Ohio has today is what Columbia will initially have until we get the Life Extension 2,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe said SSP will start trade studies “to define an SLBM that can deploy throughout the life of Columbia” in 2020. The new SSBNs are expected to serve through 2084.
The studies will examine which D5LE components will be kept on the new D5LE2 and which will need to be modernized or replaced. This includes components like avionics, guidance, the post-boost system, cables, and data bus.
Wolfe explained the new missile “won’t look like the D5 that we’ve got today. It won’t be completely new. It will be somewhere in the middle.”
He added hat decisions on reducing SSBN missile tubes from 24 on the Ohio-class to 16 on the Columbia-class was partially due to “an assumption that the reliability of this weapon system way out in the 2070s and 2080s will be just as reliable and supportable as it is today with the current Trident.”