Image of a TRIDENTmissile firing out of the water.

Strategic Systems Programs. Keeping our seabourne deterrent armed and ready.
 by RADM Dennis M. Dwyer, USN

For more than 45 years, the Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) organization has served our nation's defense and contributed uniquely to the preservation of universal stability by deploying the most effective deterrent to global war  the world has ever known. It all began with the POLARIS program under the direction of RADM William F. "Red" Raborn and continues today in supporting the unmatched capability embodied in 18 Ohio (SSBN-726)-class TRIDENT submarines, which carry TRIDENT I and II Fleet Ballistic Missiles.

The impetus for the development of the initial POLARIS Weapon System was one of grave national urgency. The Soviet Union had already demonstrated a ballistic missile capability and would soon launch - ahead of the United States - the first earth-orbiting satellite. The pressure was on to acquire our own defensive arsenal of ballistic missiles. To address this challenge, the Navy created the Special Projects Office and gave its efforts absolutely top priority over all other activities of the service. RADM Raborn, a naval aviator, was handpicked to oversee development of the Navy's first operational submarine-launched ballistic missile system. As Raborn himself said, "Our first job was to create a wholly new kind of team that could develop and build a revolutionary weapon concept... in record time." 

A nationwide industry team was quickly assembled, introduced to the goal, and made full partners in the endeavor. Over 20,000 industry personnel and government employees were welded together into a cohesive team, which produced in an extraordinarily short time one of the most revolutionary weapon systems ever devised. 

This new system, POLARIS, eventually evolved through three generations, each of which provided additional capabilities to the nation's deterrent force. Later, as anti-ballistic missile technology advanced, the Navy developed POSEIDON, the first ballistic missile to carry multiple, independently-targeted reentry vehicles, or MIRVs. POSEIDON was followed by TRIDENT I, a missile with greater range. Then in 1983, the further development of TRIDENT II was approved and funded to create the first submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) with the capability to threaten hardened targets, including land-based missiles stored in silos. 

Image. Caption follows. Image. Caption follows.
The inaugural recipient of the Raborn Award is the Strategic Systems Programs Program Management Office (NAVPMOSSP), Sunnyvale, CA (SPL). Pictured from left to right are: MTCM(SS) Rick LaFave, Command Master Chief, SSP; MTCM(SS) Steve Perry, Command Master Chief, PMOSSP; RADM Dennis Dwyer, Director, SSP; Mr. Dick Kohl, Chief Engineer, PMOSSP; CDR Doug White; Commanding Officer, PMOSSP; CDR Luis Alvarez, Executive Officer, PMOSSP; STSCS(SS) Keith Post, Command Career Counselor, SSP. Mr. Arkie Willhite, of SPL, LCDR Gary Sweany, and LCDR Jim Melvin review the Third Stage Eject Motor and forward motor dome characteristics of a TRIDENT missile.

Achieving the announced goal of fielding a ballistic missile system in just five years, RADM Raborn credited the project's success to his unique handpicked civilian, military, and contractor team. As he noted in 1978, "This whole contractual family is a completely dedicated group of people... a truly magnificent military-industrial partnership [in which] performance was obtained by cultivating a real team spirit and effort." 

From the beginning of the program in 1955 until today, the civilian, military, and contractor make-up of the SSP team has been maintained as a key element in continuing the tradition of excellence first established at the outset. It is in RADM Raborn's honor that the annual Raborn Award has been established to provide commands within SSP a means to highlight their successes and accomplishments during each year-long period. It showcases the dynamic civilian, military, and contractor composition of the SSP team and recognizes outstanding performance in the basic areas of SSP's expertise. The inaugural recipient of the Raborn Award is the SSP Program Management Office (NAVPMOSSP), Sunnyvale, CA (SPL). SPL has demonstrated an incredible level of technical knowledge, professionalism, and dedication to the team effort - the very philosophy inspired by RADM W. F. "Red" Raborn over four decades ago.

Image. Caption follows.
A row of launch tubes at Bangor, Washington, commonly referred to as the "Alaskan Pipeline," awaiting installation on USS Alaska.

NAVPMOSSP, Sunnyvale: Meeting the Challenge 
Responsible for program management in the field and providing onsite development, coordination, and maintenance of the Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) program for the SSP Director, SPL is co-located with SSP's prime missile contractor, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Missiles & Space Operations (LMSSC-MSO) and the launcher prime contractor, Northrop Grumman Marine Systems (NGMS). These three organizations represent the core of the government-contractor team concept that has implemented the SSP philosophy from the program's beginning in 1955. 

SPL provides technical, logistical, and administrative support to ensure conformance to the contracts assigned to them through all phases of the program. Additionally, they are responsible for configuration management, subsystem qualification, integrated test, and the other engineering-management processes necessary in fielding and maintaining the missile, launcher, and reentry body subsystems.

Missile Systems 
The last production of the TRIDENT D5 Test Missile Kit (TMK) took place in the early 1990s. The current TMK design is obsolete and would be too costly to build today. Because of these factors, SSP and Lockheed Martin have begun to design a new TMK. 

To produce a reliable TMK costing only a targeted one-quarter of the earlier price, the SSP team is taking advantage of advances in technology and Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) equipment. This necessitates some very difficult flight-qualification and product-acceptance testing, as well as creating configuration management processes that the Government-Contractor FBM teams have never exercised before. SPL is working closely with these teams to ensure that the follow-on TMK meets all its requirements. Through new and innovative thinking, the team is making great strides towards completing an updated design that will deliver future TMK performance as high as it is today.

Reentry Systems 
The MK4 nuclear weapon reentry body assemblies (RBAs) of the Trident II (D5) submarine-launched ballistic missile will soon reach the end of their original 20-year service lives. 
A coordinated program between the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE) is underway to extend the life of the MK4 RBA for an additional 30 years. Known as the MK4A refurbishment, this critical undertaking will benefit from the first-rate leadership of SPL's engineers. 

Image. Caption follows.

Last minute inspections. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard prepares to pull a C4 Launch Tube from the USS Alaska using the EB-supplied jacking/pulling fixture.
Image. Caption follows.

Jacking of the C4 Launch Tube is almost complete. Connecting to the jacking/pulling fixture, the PSNS crane completes the launch tube removal.
Image. Caption follows. Ready for cradle. C4 Launch Tube removal is complete and ready for lay-down on the flatbed trailer.

SPL is involved in aging evaluations and tradeoff studies to determine which RBA components need to be replaced and which can be reused, while still maintaining reliability and effectiveness, improving nuclear surety, and retaining current dimensions and interfaces at minimal cost. Also, SPL will coordinate the complex flow of hardware across the nation between DOD and DOE facilities to facilitate the delivery (continued on page 31) of deployable MK4A RBAs to the Ohio-class SSBN force.

Planning and Logistics 
Support In preparation for the replacement of TRIDENT C4 missiles by D5s, SPL manages the logistics of moving missile-support equipment to the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific (SWFPAC) for its new role in D5 Activation. This equipment is essential in converting SWFPAC from a TRIDENT I (C4) facility to one that can handle TRIDENT II (D5) weapons. By coordinating among contractor and government entities, SPL employees have resolved many potential problems, such as spare-parts issues common to both D5 Special Test Equipment/Special Mechanical Equipment and C4 support equipment managed by the Navy inventory control point. In an associated effort for the D5 Activation at SWFPAC, SPL coordinates with the Contractor Inventory Managers (CIMs) to streamline the disposal process for C4 missiles in order to clear storage space for the D5 equipment.

SPL has expanded Camp Navajo, Arizona, to include storage of C4 motors prior to their transfer to the disposal range. Other items now stored at, or which pass through, Camp Navajo include propellants and missile hardware being transferred to and from the weapons facilities at the Eastern Test Range in support of the D5 Activation. Additionally, arrangements have been made to store other items for SSP branches.

Launcher Systems 
A team of Navy engineers and logisticians is finishing production of the D5 launch system and TRIDENT II launcher support equipment to support backfit conversions on two TRIDENT I boats. Now complete, 48 launch tubes were produced over a period of 44 months. Restarting production after a gap of more than five years was a daunting task, which required a major supplier re-qualification effort for critical items and manufacturing a qualification sample before tactical production. The effort paid off - the launch tubes produced today meet the stringent quality and tolerance criteria originally developed during the TRIDENT II production, and they are being produced ahead of schedule and within greater budget constraints.

Magna Detachment (SPL(B)) 
Located in Magna, Utah, SPL(B) is a detachment of PMO Sunnyvale, and consists of 18 civil-service employees and one military Officer-In-Charge, who oversee TRIDENT II (D5) rocket-motor production and delivery for TRIDENT II submarines and rocket-motor transportation and disposal for the TRIDENT I boats. 

Serving as technical field experts for SSP, they provide life-cycle support for all three rocket-motor stages of the D5 missile. The biggest challenge facing SPL(B) is maintaining a business base of critical suppliers. As rocket motor production rates decrease, the profitability of making motor materials falls also. Several suppliers have discontinued production of critical materials, resulting in the need for re-qualification of many new suppliers. This is a challenging task for all concerned, and as the TRIDENT submarine hull life is extended to 42 years, it will become even more difficult to ensure that propellant suppliers will be able to meet the need for future missile production. 

Everyone associated with the Strategic Systems Programs organization is deeply aware of his or her individual responsibility for ensuring the future viability of our nation's submarine-launched strategic deterrent. The incredible level of technical knowledge, professionalism, and teamwork shown by SPL and its unique community of Navy civilians, military personnel, and contractors makes clear that "Red" Raborn's SSP ethos is still alive and well. 

RADM Dennis M. Dwyer is the Director of 
Strategic Systems Programs.

 Table of Contents