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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Trident I C-4 FBM / SLBM

The TRIDENT I (C-4) is a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) developed to replace the Poseidon missile in existing strategic missile submarines and to arm the OHIO class SSBNs. Today it is carried by the eight OHIO class submarines operating in the Pacific. The C-4 missile was first deployed in 1979.

The TRIDENT C-4 is a long-range, multiple-warhead missile that is launched from submerged submarines. Depending upon the number of warheads carried, it has almost double the range of the previous Poseidon missile. The C-4 is a three-stage solid fuel missile which is powered only during the initial phases of flight. When the third stage is exhausted the missile follows a ballistic trajectory. When the first stage motor ignites and aerospike extends from the missile's nose, cutting the friction of the air flowing past the missile, thus extending its range. The third stage includes the bus that aims and dispenses the warheads at separate targets.

The missile's manufacturer, Lockheed Missiles and Space company, achieved the increase in range without a commensurate increase in physical dimensions over the Poseidon missile through several technological advances. Those advances were made in several key areas, including propulsion, microelectronics and the weight-saving material area. Missile range is controlled by trajectory shaping with Generalized Energy Management Steering [GEMS). In addition, TRIDENT I uses an "aerospike" to increase its aerodynamic performance. The spike is attached to the front end of the missile and telescopes into position after launch.

The first TRIDENT missile was launched from a flat pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 18, 1977. The missile was first deployed at sea aboard the USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN 657) in October, 1979. In February of 1995, Florida successfully launched 6 TRIDENT missiles in rapid succession. TRIDENT subs carry 24 of the missiles. Each can be independently targeted.

In October 2002, USS OHIO (SSBN 726) and USS FLORIDA (SSBN 728) completed their final strategic offloads of TRIDENT I (C4) missiles in preparation for their refueling overhauls and conversions to SSGNs. The C4 SWS will be retired in FY 2005.




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