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After Half A Century, US Navy Marks First Underwater Launch of Ballistic Missile

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Lockheed Martin Space Systems
: 21 July, 2010  (Company News)
A fleet ballistic missile produced by Lockheed Martin was first launched from the submerged USS George Washington submarine 50 years ago
After Half A Century, US Navy Marks First Underwater Launch of Ballistic Missile
Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the US Navy Strategic Systems Programs' first underwater launch of a Fleet Ballistic Missile, which was designed and built by Lockheed Martin. The Polaris A1 missile successfully launched from the submerged USS George Washington (SSBN-598), the first ballistic missile submarine, July 20, 1960, off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Fla. This successful Navy test proved the capability of launching missiles from the natural protection of the deep sea, securing a strategic advantage to the nation.

In 1956, as part of a Navy-industry research and development effort, the first Fleet Ballistic Missile, Polaris A1, became a critical component of the US's strategic triad of defenses. A mere four years later, a 28,800-pound, two-stage ballistic missile with a range of 1,200 nautical miles, powered by solid fuel Rocket motors and guided by an inertial guidance system, broke the surface of the water like never before.

'Launching the A1 missile was a significant accomplishment for the Navy and the nation,' said Melanie Sloane, vice president of Fleet Ballistic Missile programs, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. 'A submerged launch has several added technical challenges and considerations, such as launch tube environment, underwater current flow impacts and pressure differentials at various depths. Overcoming these challenges in concert with our Strategic Systems Programs partner, and evolving the capability over the past 50 years to today's Trident II D5 missile, is a national security mission we are proud to support.'

Today's Trident II D5, a three-stage, solid-propellant, inertial-guided ballistic missile, travels a nominal distance of 4,000 nautical miles and carries multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles. The Navy has achieved 134 consecutive successful submerged test launches of the D5 missile since 1989 -- a record unmatched by any other large ballistic missile or space launch vehicle. The Trident missile is currently aboard OHIO-class submarines and British Vanguard-class submarines patrolling international waters.
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