USS Rhode Island launches Trident II D5, following North Korea and US Air Force missile tests

An unarmed Trident II D5 missile launches from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 9, 2019. Photo: US Navy

US Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) carried out a successful test flight of one unarmed Trident II D5 missile on May 9.

On the same day, the US Air Force launched a Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Both tests coincided with North Korea’s firing of two missiles into the sea between North Korea and Japan.

The US Navy launch marked the 172nd successful test flight of the Trident II D5 missile since its introduction to the fleet in 1989.

This test flight was part of a Demonstration and Shakedown Operation, designated DASO 29. The primary objective of a DASO is to evaluate and demonstrate the readiness of the SSBN’s strategic weapon system and crew before operational deployment following its engineered refueling overhaul (ERO).

Rhode Island completed its ERO in August 2018. The undertaking is a complex, major shipyard availability during which the submarine is refueled and upgraded before returning to support the country’s nuclear deterrence strategy. This ERO extended the life of Rhode Island for more than 20 years.

EROs play a critical role in the future of the US Navy’s submarine force as they extend the life of the aging 14 Ohio-class submarines in the Navy’s fleet. Ohios are scheduled to be replaced by 12 Columbia-class submarines, with the first initial deterrent patrol in 2031.

“USS Rhode Island’s successful test flight today demonstrates not only that this ship’s crew and shipboard weapons system are ready to return to service, but also that the sea-based leg of our nuclear deterrent remains ready, reliable and credible,” said Capt. Mark Behning, deputy director, Strategic Systems Programs (SSP).

SSP, along with Naval Ordnance Test Unit, oversees the DASO certification process and provides integrated testing and evaluation capabilities, while various other organizations provide support.

Ohio-class SSBNs carry up to 20 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and provide the United States with its most survivable and enduring nuclear strike capability. The design allows the submarines to operate for 15 years or more between major overhauls. The Columbia-class submarine will not need to be refueled during its lifetime.

Rhode Island is the fourth US Navy ship to bear the name and was commissioned July 9, 1994. Assigned to Submarine Group 10, Rhode Island is one of five ballistic-missile submarines homeported at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia.

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