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Navy launches Trident II D5 missiles on Eastern Range, sets record for success

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The U.S. Navy successfully launched two Trident II missiles configured with a new test missile kit design from a submarine May 15 on the Eastern Range.

The unarmed Trident II D5 Fleet Ballistic Missiles (FBMs) were launched from the USS Tennessee, operating in the Atlantic Ocean.

With this two-missile test, the Trident II D5 missile achieved 119 consecutive successful test launches since 1989 - a record unmatched by any other large ballistic missile or space launch vehicle.

The launches are part of a continuing series of operational system evaluation tests conducted by the Navy to assure the safety, reliability, readiness and performance of the Trident II D5 Strategic Weapon System.

The new test missile kit design converted operational missiles into test configurations and contained range safety devices and flight telemetry instrumentation.

The test was the culmination of more than five years of close coordination, planning and testing with the 45th Space Wing and represents a significant milestone for the Fleet Ballistic Missile program, Navy and Air Force officials said.

"This test highlights not only a highly successful and significant launch, but also the good working relationship between the Naval Ordnance Test Unit and the 45th Space Wing," said Brig. Gen. Susan Helms, 45th Space Wing commander and Eastern Range director.

"The coordination between the 45th Space Wing and the Naval Ordnance Test Unit in support of this launch was exceptional and contributed significantly to the mission's success," said Capt. William Drake, Naval Ordnance Test Unit (NOTU) commanding officer.

"Especially noteworthy was the close liaison between the safety groups of both organizations. This is a great example of joint teamwork and cooperation between the Air Force and Navy."

NOTU converts tactical missiles into test missiles by installing test missile kit (TMK) instrumentation.

"Ultimately the day of launch is where the rubber meets the road, but the launch effort started more than 30 months prior to the day of launch," said Keith Sommer, 45th Range Management Squadron (RMS).

The Eastern Range provides national assets for launch customers, in order to ensure a successful mission, he said. "The Navy's mission is to provide flight tests for its Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile program in order to demonstrate the crew's mission readiness, and provide a total system performance of the Trident II weapon system from in-tube conversion to accurate target determination."

The launch utilized an upgraded TMK system called the Low Cost Test Missile Kit (LCTMK) which included a new GPS system, along with other new electronics and antennas.

"LCTMK is critical in the Range being able to track missile location, tracking, and performance to ensure public safety as well as enhance mission assurance," said Mark Simmons, 1st Range Operations Squadron.

Wing leaders credited a team of 45th Operations Group professionals with the success of the launch on the Air Force side.

"RMS provided the Navy with a path for range acceptance of their upgraded vehicle tracking systems," said Mr. Sommer. "With support from the 1st Range Operations Squadron, 45th SW Safety, and Range Technical Support Contract, the Eastern Range established a process for a successful first launch. This process had safety as the number one priority for the range, and mission assurance or risk mitigation as the second priority to support the customer."