Friday, June 9, 2017

Navy's D5 Missile

Seldom do people hear anything about the D5. The reason why is that unlike just about any other major weapon system, there never seems to be a problem with the missile. The three-stage, solid-fuel ballistic missile is the most reliable ever built, bar none. Since its design was completed in 1989, the D5 has executed 165 successful test flights -- a record unmatched by any other large ballistic missile or launch vehicle.
As for its potency, a single D5 equipped with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles carrying nuclear warheads can destroy a small country such as North Korea. A handful of D5s could collapse the entire electrical grid, transportation network and information infrastructure of even the largest countries. And the Navy has hundreds of D5 missiles.

When the goal is deterring aggression, the key metric of success isn't how many weapons a country possesses. It's how many weapons survive a surprise attack, because those are the weapons the enemy has to worry about. Possessing a secure retaliatory force is the sine qua non of effective deterrence.
The U.S. maintains a "triad" of nuclear systems -- D5s on submarines, land-based ballistic missiles, and long-range bombers. A single Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine has two dozen missile tubes, and each of the D5s in those tubes carries at least several nuclear warheads that can be directed at separate targets. The missiles can carry up to 14 warheads. Each warhead has a yield of 100 or 475 kilotons, and can hit within 300 feet of intended targets. At those yields -- 5 to 25 times the explosive power of the weapon that leveled Hiroshima in 1945 -- the warheads carried by a D5 can destroy pretty much anything, including a hardened command bunker.
The Navy has begun developing a next-generation submarine designated to the Columbia class that will be even harder to track than the 14 Ohio-class boats comprising the current undersea deterrent. The first such vessel will commence construction at the Electric Boat unit of General Dynamics in 2021