U.S. demonstrates nuclear deterrence assurance with test launches

U.S. demonstrates nuclear deterrence assurance with test launches

U.S. Strategic Command

Amid rising concern in the Indo-Pacific region over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) expanding nuclear arsenal, the United States recently tested two legs of its nuclear triad in demonstrations that underscored the viability and readiness of the nation’s strategic deterrence.

In mid-September 2021, the U.S. Navy Ohio-class submarine USS Wyoming test launched an unarmed Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) during regular Demonstration and Shakedown Operations (DASO). (Pictured: A U.S. Navy Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile is test launched from the USS Wyoming.)

The DASO certification launch off Florida’s east coast came just days after the North Korean regime tested a new long-range cruise missile and a missile capable of carrying an atomic warhead. The PRC, meanwhile, has almost tripled its nuclear weapons stockpile since 2007, although its estimated 350 warheads represent only about 6% of the nuclear arsenals of the U.S. or Russia, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

“The DASO test, and others like these, underscore our readiness and capability for 21st century strategic deterrence,” said Rear Adm. Thomas E. Ishee, U.S. Strategic Command director of global operations.

“This same team is now developing the next generation of the Trident Strategic Weapon System, which will extend our sea-based strategic deterrent through 2084,” added Vice Adm. Johnny R. Wolfe, director of the U.S. Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs.

A month before the DASO launch, U.S. forces executed an operational test launch of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The so-called Glory Trip launch tested the continuing vitality of the Minuteman III system. (Pictured: A U.S. Air Force Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile is test launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.)

“The U.S. nuclear enterprise is the cornerstone of the security structure of the free world,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Omar Colbert, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander. “Today’s test launch is just one example of how our nation’s ICBM fleet demonstrates operational readiness and reliability of the weapon system. It also allows us to showcase the amazing level of competence and capability of our Airmen.”

Crews from the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana formed the task force that conducted the test launch. The launch involved a Hi Fidelity Joint Test Assembly reentry vehicle that detonated nonnuclear explosives prior to falling into the Pacific Ocean near Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The 6,759-kilometer flight tested the Minuteman system’s accuracy and reliability, providing data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.

In addition to SLBMs and ground-based ICBMs, the U.S. nuclear triad includes long-range bombers. The nuclear weapon systems are designed to ensure and safeguard the nation’s ability to retaliate against any nuclear strike.

The DASO and Glory Trip missile tests validate the systems’ credibility and effectiveness, which is essential to the security of the U.S. and its allies. Deterrence remains a cornerstone of U.S. national security policy and is based on shared understanding between competitors that each has a ready and reliable ability to respond in-kind to a nuclear attack.

Maintaining the future capabilities of U.S. forces is a key factor in the nation’s strategic deterrence. To that end, the U.S. is developing the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent missile and a follow-on ballistic missile for the U.S. Navy’s Columbia-class and the United Kingdom Royal Navy’s Dreadnought-class submarines.