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Trident II D5 missile test launch. Image: Lockheed Martin/US Navy


A recent contract announcement by Lockheed Martin, makers of the Trident missile system used by the UK and USA, included a large UK portion of funding. The overall contract award of $559M covered the production of Trident II D5 missiles over a four year period, as well as the provision of product-support services.

Amongst the words announcing he contract award in the US, this section refers to the British element:

Fiscal 2019 weapons procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $412,117,013; fiscal 2019 other procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $9,717,587; and United Kingdom funds in the amount of $137,787,474 will be obligated on this award. No funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

The D5 is a three-stage rocket, each stage containing a solid-fuel rocket motor. The missile body is made of a carbon composite which means the missile is lighter and thus has a better range or can carry a heavier payload. The D5s range is believed to be just under 8,000km with a full payload, and extending to about 12,000km with a limited load. The missiles are fitted to fourteen USN Ohio Class boats as well as the Royal Navy’s four Vanguard submarines.


Trident-equipped HMS Vengeance returning to the Clyde. The vessel is the fourth and final Vanguard -class submarine. Image: UK MOD


The RN operated missiles all carry UK-made warheads. The UK was provided with the design for the US warheads back in the late 1950s but has since re-designed a warhead for use in UK vessels. Subsequent work has updated the warhead and the current system will remain in service until the mid-2020s. According to some reports, the UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston, is developing  a new warhead that will replace the current system – again from the mid-2020s.


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