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Charles Stark Draper Lab tapped for nuclear missile tube research

By Stephen Carlson
Charles Stark Draper Lab tapped for nuclear missile tube research
Computer generated image of the future Dreadnought-class ballistic missile submarine being developed by the United Kingdom. Photo courtesy of the British Royal Navy

Nov. 12 (UPI) -- The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory has been awarded $109.5 million for research into common missile compartment guidance requirements for the U.S. Columbia-class and U.K. Dreadnought-class ballistic missile submarine programs.

The modification to an existing contract, announced Friday by the Department of Defense, provides technical support for the hypersonic guidance, navigation and control applications to be used in flight experiments of the Trident II ballistic missiles planned for both classes of ships.

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The work has an expected completion date of Sept. 30, 2019. U.s. Navy and United Kingdom funds in the amount of $109.5 million have been obligated upon award.

The Common Missile Compartment program is for the design, testing and delivery of missile tubes for the Trident II D5 submarine launched ballistic missile used by the U.S. and UK navies.

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The tubes will be used on both classes replacement ballistic missile submarine classes currently under development. The missile compartments will be able to mount conventional cruise missiles as well with modifications.

The Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine will be the successor to the Ohio-class, which has been in service since 1981. The Columbia-class will be able to carry 16 Trident II D5 missiles for long duration deterrence patrols, with 12 planned to be built and the first expected to enter service in 2031.

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The U.K. Dreadnought-class will be able to carry 12 Trident II missiles using the CMC, allowing interchangeability and joint support and maintenance for both types of submarines missile systems.

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The Trident II D5 is the sole type of SLBM used by both the U.S. and U.K. Though a single warhead is standard for both countries, the Trident II is capable of carrying Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles, allowing multiple nuclear weapons on each missile, allowing them to shower a large target area such as missile fields and military concentrations.

The combination of long-range, accuracy and difficulty of interception of the Trident II, combined with the stealth characteristics of the Columbia and Dreadnought, are expected to provide each nation's primary sea-based nuclear deterrence until the 2080's.

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