OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. â€“ The successful launches of three Trident II (D5) missiles last week as part of a Follow-on Commander's Evaluation Test (FCET) continue to validate the credibility of the nuclear enterprise. FCET-52, the 160th successful launch since 1989, follows two Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) “Glory Trip” launches in February, and one Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) nuclear Weapon System Evaluation Program (NucWSEP) test.
“The recent launches demonstrate our missiles are safe, secure, effective and reliable, as is our nuclear enterprise,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work.Â “These six nominal launches, all within the past 30 days, represent all three legs of the Nuclear Triad and serve as indicators of our unbelievably capable force.”
Previous to the aforementioned launches, Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) also conducted two successful flight tests of the Trident II (D5) missile in November as part of a Demonstration and Shakedown Operation (DASO).
“Strategic weapons tests provide me with valid reliability, accuracy and performance factors for use in our planning efforts. A credible, effective nuclear deterrent is essential to our national security and the security of U.S. allies and partners, and provides the President with flexible deterrent options,” said Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) commander. “Our intercontinental ballistic missiles, ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), air-launched cruise missiles, nuclear capable heavy bombers and associated tankers each deliver unique and complementary attributes that together underpin strategic deterrence and stability.”
FCET and DASO
The Navy’s recent FCET and DASO weapons tests, exercises and operations highlight the readiness of the submarine-launched Trident II (D5) missile.Â As the most survivable leg of the strategic deterrent triad, the Ohio-class SSBN and the Trident II (D5) missile provide the national command authority with an assured second-strike capability.
The primary objective of an FCET is to obtain, under operationally representative conditions, valid reliability, accuracy, and performance data of the missile system for use by the USSTRATCOM commander and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. DASO tests demonstrate the readiness of an SSBN’s crew and weapon system.
The ICBM force provides a responsive, highly reliable and cost effective deterrent capability.
Air Force Global Strike Command missile wings and USSTRATCOM’s 625th Strategic Operations Squadron, with the support of the 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg AFB, California, conduct unarmed Minuteman III ICBM operational tests launches to verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system. The two launches in February once again validated the Minuteman III system and tested the skill of a 91st Missile Wing crew from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.
The ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and USSTRATCOM, use the launch data for force development.
Dual-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers are the most flexible and adaptable leg of the nuclear triad and provide significant conventional capabilities. Bombers play a key role in stabilizing and managing crises by providing a visible signaling option and rapid hedge against operational and technical challenges in other legs of the nuclear triad.
Air Force Global Strike Command bomb wings and Air Combat Command’s 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron conduct the extensive evaluation exercises to determine the bomber force's ability to configure, load, fly and deliver an unarmed version of one of the Air Force’s Long-Range Stand-Off (LRSO) weapons â€“ the AGM-86B nuclear-capable ALCM.
A NucWSEP test is a stockpile-to-target evaluation of a nuclear weapon system designed to provide USSTRATCOM with valuable data used in deciding stockpile requirements and for operational planning.
“For more than 70 years, thanks in part to our credible nuclear forces, the United States has deterred great power war against nuclear-capable adversaries,” Haney said. “This extended service of our nuclear deterrent platforms is testimony to the efforts of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians as well as to the ingenuity of our predecessorsâ€”especially the designers, the engineers, and the maintainers.”
“I am committed to providing our nation with a viable and credible nuclear deterrent force, and I’m confident in telling the President and Secretary of Defense that the nuclear deterrence force is ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Haney said.