OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. − Over the span of a week, U.S. forces conducted two strategic weapons tests that validated the accuracy, reliability and readiness of the nation’s nuclear deterrent force.
On Aug. 31, the U.S. Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs and the Blue Crew of the USS Maryland (SSBN-738), an Ohio class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) assigned to Submarine Group 10, completed a Demonstration and Shakedown Operation (DASO) with the launch of an unarmed Trident II D5 missile in the Eastern Test Range off the coast of Florida.
Designated DASO-27, the operation marked the 161st successful test flight of the Trident II D5 missile. The primary objective of a DASO is to evaluate and demonstrate the readiness of an SSBN’s strategic weapon system and crew before operational deployment following its midlife refueling overhaul.
Five days later, on Sept. 5, a team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test reentry vehicle from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The vehicle, which contained a telemetry package used for operational testing, traveled approximately 4,200 miles to Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
ICBM test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ballistic missile’s weapon system, providing valuable data on the reliability, accuracy and performance factors of our strategic weapons to Department of Defense (DoD) decision makers.
“It is impressive to see today’s systems working well beyond their expected service life. These tests prove that our nation’s strategic triad of submarines, ICBMs, and bombers is safe, secure, effective and ready,” said Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) commander. “But we cannot rely on that indefinitely. Sustaining and modernizing the nuclear enterprise infrastructure is crucial to maintaining a strong, credible and flexible nuclear deterrent, which is essential to our national security and the security of United States’ allies and partners.”
According to Sen. Deb Fischer, who was aboard the USS Maryland to observe DASO-27, the event served as a representation of “the heroic work in which our uniformed men and women take part every day around the globe.”
“From below the surface, I observed the exceptional members of the Navy’s ‘silent service’ as they conducted their drills,” said Fischer in her weekly column. “It was a proud moment to see them carry out their indispensable mission of nuclear deterrence with precision and dedication.”
(Link to column - http://www.fischer.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/weekly-column?ID=3463E59C-AF11-410F-A123-B35CF3D786FF)
“DASO-27 showcased the ability of our SSBNs to deliver our nation’s most survivable and enduring nuclear strike capability,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. John E. Shaw, USSTRATCOM deputy director of global operations, who observed the event aboard the launch area support ship. “This launch was a terrific accomplishment for the USS Maryland, for Submarine Group 10, and for the entire team that provides the nation with a safe, secure, effective and ready strategic deterrent.”
“I’m extremely proud of the men and women who work tirelessly to ensure our nuclear deterrent capability remains ready and responsive to any perceivable threat,” said Rear Adm. Jeff Jablon, USSTRATCOM deputy director of plans and policy, who viewed Monday’s ICBM launch. “This launch highlights the expertise and professionalism of our missile wing maintainers and operators, the airmen in our flight test squadron, and the host unit at Vandenberg, who continue to showcase the operational credibility of the Minuteman III.”