GONAVY: The Language of Trident launches on television


in Bombs and rockets, Geek stuff, Politics, Security, Space and flight

From a number of perspectives, I find YouTube videos which include demonstrations of Trident D5 missile launches from American Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines highly interesting:

I find the first of the three clips (USS Nebraska) especially intriguing because of the highly stylized, almost theatrical language of the exchange between the bridge officers authenticating the emergency action message. In the second and third clips (USS Kentucky and USS Pennsylvania), the process is either simplified or not shown. The deliberateness of orders being given and then repeated back, with each action then being completed by a two-man team, seems demonstrative of a training culture and a concept of operations based around the two man rule. The way in which certain messages are broadcast on loudspeaker to the entire crew is also interesting from a security and system design perspective.

There is clearly a substantial recruiting angle to such ‘documentaries’, which helps explain why the navy would tolerate the bother and potential security risks associated. A related dimension is helping to justify the huge costs associated with a fleet of 18 multi-billion dollar submarines, each with 24 $37 million dollar missiles, each capable of carrying 12 nuclear warheads.

It also seems plausible that publicly demonstrating the functioning of such systems adds to their credibility in the eyes of potential adversaries.

The launch procedures above are interesting to contrast with those depicted for a British Vanguard-class boat (HMS Victorious) carrying the same missiles. The protocol of using a yellow stick to guard the launch code safe is an especially amusing British security strategy. This depiction, straight from the Royal Navy (HMS Vigilant), is more serious in tone, though it still lacks the drama of the American variations.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

. June 10, 2016 at 5:31 pm
anon June 10, 2016 at 6:44 pm

The ominous background music in the American clips may be one reason why they come across more menacingly.

. June 10, 2016 at 11:36 pm

Fact Sheet: Trident Submarine & Missile System

Trident submarines serve as the sea based nuclear launch system of the Air, Land, and Sea Nuclear Triad supported by the US government. The U.S. currently has 14 nuclear-powered Trident ballistic-missile (SSBN) submarines. Trident submarines are 560 feet in length, or nearly two football fields. Each submarine can carry 24 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) designated Trident D5 and each missile can carry up to eight 100 kiloton nuclear warheads (about 30 times the explosive force as the Hiroshima bomb).

The Trident D5 missile stands 44.6 feet high and originally had a range of 4,230 nautical miles with a full load of warheads, and up to 6000+ nautical miles with a reduced load of warheads. Upgrades and Life Extension Programs may have changed some specifications. Warheads are either Mark-4/W76 or Mark-5/W88.

100 : Number of kilotons on ONE Trident W76 warhead

455: Number of kilotons on ONE Trident W88 warhead

345,600: Total number of kilotons deployed on Trident fleet

14: Number of kilotons on atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima

150,000: Number of people killed by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima

1,028 minimum; 4,885 maximum: Number of potential “Hiroshimas” each Trident is capable of destroying

$66,000,000: Price of ONE Trident II D5 missile

14: Number of nuclear- armed submarines the Navy wants to deploy through 2042

. June 10, 2016 at 11:47 pm

Trident: Deadly – and very, very expensive

It is our last line of defence in the event of nuclear war. But Trident also costs billions. Will the coalition government dare to scrap it?

. June 10, 2016 at 11:48 pm

Life on Trident: three months under the waves with 48 nuclear warheads

Commander Julian Ferguson on life onboard a Trident sub

. June 10, 2016 at 11:51 pm

As captain, Ferguson knew where they were going, as did the navigator, but their superiors at base only knew the approximate area they would patrol. An aerial trails behind the submarine, to pick up radio signals from Britain if the prime minister presses the nuclear button. It also relays brief messages from the crew’s families once a week; the sailors cannot reply.

If there was nuclear war and the captain was unable to communicate with base, there is a personal letter on board written by the prime minister to the captain. The contents are top secret but it is thought that the instructions include allying with the US, travelling to Australia if Europe has been destroyed and, ultimately, firing the weapons. The missiles cannot be launched by one man alone; the crew are not told what they are aiming at.


. June 12, 2016 at 12:06 am

Letters of last resort
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The letters of last resort are four identically-worded handwritten letters from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to the commanding officers of the four British ballistic missile submarines. They contain orders on what action to take in the event that an enemy nuclear strike has destroyed the British government and has killed or otherwise incapacitated both the Prime Minister and the “second person” (normally a high-ranking member of the Cabinet) whom the Prime Minister has designated to make a decision on how to act in the event of the Prime Minister’s death. In the event that the orders were to be carried out, the action taken could be the last official act of Her Majesty’s Government.

. June 14, 2016 at 1:10 am
. July 18, 2016 at 7:20 pm
. July 21, 2016 at 2:20 pm

“The first generation of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) might be less accurate than land-based missiles or bombers, but accuracy would be of little importance in a retaliatory attack, when Soviet bombers and missiles would have already departed from their bases and their launchpads, leaving cities hostage. Following these assumptions, David Alan Rosenberg reveals:

The Navy projected that a fleet of 45 submarines, with 29 deployed at all times, could destroy 232 Soviet targets, “which was sufficient to destroy all of Russia. The total cost of such a program would be 7 to 8 billion dollars, and annual operating costs would be $350 million.” This proposal, [Eisenhower administration] Budget Director Maurice Stans remarked, raised the obvious question as to why the U.S. needed “other IRBMs [intermediate-range ballistic missiles] or ICBMs, SAC aircraft and overseas bases.” Navy leaders agreed, but were in no position to propose the virtual elimination of SAC. That, they told Stans, “was somebody-else’s problem.””

Rhodes, Richard. Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race. p. 91-2

Milan August 9, 2016 at 4:59 pm
. August 11, 2016 at 9:34 pm
. August 25, 2016 at 1:02 am
Milan May 14, 2019 at 4:11 pm

Another documentary on youtube

This one is about the HMS Repulse. It includes the baton mentioned in other videos about British subs, and also shows a visit to the sub for family members including a cruise underwater.

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