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Old 07-21-2020, 12:17 PM
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Thumbs up Older Than The B-52? Trident Missile May Remain In Service Until 2084.

Older Than The B-52? Trident Missile May Remain In Service Until 2084.
By: Michael Peck Aerospace & Defense & Forbes - 07-21-20

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A U.S. Navy Trident II missile is test-launched from the submarine USS Maryland off the Florida ... [+] U.S. NAVY

If you thought the U.S. Air Force’s legendary B-52 bomber is old, then get ready for the U.S. Navy’s Trident II missile.

The B-52H, which first took flight in 1961, is being upgraded to fly until at least 2050. The Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile, first deployed in 1990, may fly until 2084. That would make the Trident almost 100 years old, and could potentially see the missile remain operational into the 22nd century.

The Navy wants to extend the life of the Trident II D5 to parallel the lifespan of the Navy’s new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines, which are also scheduled to remain in service until 2084. Like the B-52H, which is scheduled to receive new engines, the Trident would be refitted with new parts.

The Navy is looking at the Trident in light of “all of those new technologies that we need to go think about on how we’re going to take what we have today, how we’re going to modernize it and how we’re going to get it to last the entire life of the Columbia, which is we all know about 2084,” Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe, head of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Program, told a Naval Submarine League conference.

This would be the second life extension upgrade to the Trident II, which began receiving its first life extension in 2017. “Wolfe said the original life extension effort has gone well, with five flight tests in the last year showing the missiles can still fly the tracks they’re supposed to,” according to USNI News. “In fact, three motors involved in a test that were about three decades old performed like new during the test, he said.”

The three-stage Trident II D5, which has a range of 4,600 miles and carries multiple nuclear warheads, replaced the older Poseidon submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) in the 1990s. But now the Trident faces the same problem as older weapons: no one makes parts for them anymore. The U.S. Air Force has faced immense problems finding parts for its F-22 fighter, which first flew in 1997. After F-22 production stopped in 2011, manufacturers closed production lines and stopped making components.

“What we are going to start to do is start to look at what are those technologies – and I talked about post-boost control, things like nose fairings – things we know we won’t be able to produce anymore,” Wolfe said.

But how well can a missile function after nearly a century? What about issues such as metal fatigue? The U.S. Air Force chose not to extend the life of its Minuteman III ICBMs, which were first deployed in 1970, says Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons experts at the Federation of American Scientists. Faced with aging missile silos and hard-to-find spare parts, the Air Force has opted for a new land-based missile – the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent – to replace the Minuteman.

Nonetheless, Kristensen believes the Navy’s Trident plans may be feasible. The Trident II D5 is younger than the Minuteman III and has a much better flight track record,” Kristensen tells me. “In fact, it appears to be the most reliable long-range ballistic missile ever.”

“While the Minuteman III’s life extension occurred a decade ago, the Trident’s first life extension is much more recent,” Kristensen adds. “The Trident design is pretty solid and the life-extension would presumably involve upgrading pretty much everything. Potential metal fatigue can probably be dealt with relatively easy.”

In addition, the Navy has a powerful financial incentive to hang on to the Trident. It’s already building expensive new Columbia-class submarines, and “adding a new SLBM would exacerbate that challenge,” says Kristensen.

Keeping old flying machines flying isn’t a new idea. Case in point: the incredible DC-3 transport plane, which first flew in 1936 and is still in use around the world. But for weapons like the B-52 and Trident, their viability depends on the threats they will face. In 30 or 60 years, more lethal anti-aircraft and anti-missile defenses could make them obsolete, as can alternative weapons such as drones and hypersonic missiles.

Then again, in 1952, no one expected the B-52 to still be in the air a century later. Some machines never die. They just get upgraded.


Personal note: What's the old adage - If ain't broke don't fix it!


O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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