Trident II D-5 is the sixth generation member of the U.S. Navy's Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) program which started in 1956. Systems have included the Polaris (A1), Polaris (A2), Polaris (A3), Poseidon (C3), and Trident I (C4). The first deployment of Trident II was in 1990 on the USS Tenessee (SSBN 734). While Trident I was designed to the same dimensions as the Poseidon missile it replaced, Trident II is a little larger.
The Trident II D-5 is a three-stage, solid propellant, inertially guided FBM with a range of more than 4,000 nautical miles (4,600 statute miles or 7,360 km) Trident II is more sophisticated with a significantly greater payload capability. All three stages of the Trident II are made of lighter, stronger, stiffer graphite epoxy, whose integrated structure mean considerable weight savings. The missile's range is increased by the aerospike, a telescoping outward extension that reduces frontal drag by about 50 percent. Trident II is fired by the pressure of expanding gas in the launch tube. When the missile attains sufficient distance from the submarine, the first stage motor ignites, the aerospike extends and the boost stage begins. Within about two minutes, after the third stage motor kicks in, the missile is traveling in excess of 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) per second.
The ten Trident submarines in the Atlantic fleet were initially equipped with the D-5 Trident II missile. The eight submarines in the Pacific were initially equipped with the C-4 Trident I missile. In 1996 the Navy started to backfit the eight submarines in the Pacific to carry the D-5 missile.
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