A Trident 2 submarine missile was successfully launched in the 19th and final test flight from a land-based pad Thursday, the Navy said, clearing the way for critical underwater firings of the powerful new weapon.
The $23.7 million missile roared away from its seaside pad at 2:04 a.m. MST and carved a fiery path as it hurled a dummy warhead to an undisclosed Atlantic Ocean target.Ten minutes later, the Navy reported that the shot had been a success.
The 44-foot missile has a range of nearly 6,000 miles, but for security reasons the distance traveled was not disclosed.
The launch ended a series of Trident 2 land-launch tests that began here on Jan. 15, 1987. Officials had planned 20 such tests but decided to stop at 19 because of recent successes.
Of the 19 tests, the Navy rated 16 successful and one a "no test," which occurred when an Air Force safety officer destroyed the missile by triggering on-board explosives after radar indicated it was off course.
The missile was deliberately sent off course to test the guidance system's ability to correct its path, but the security officer was not notified.
The USS Tennessee, the first of nine nuclear submarines being built to carry Trident 2 missiles, is scheduled to conduct the first underwater firing of the weapon in the next several weeks.
Several undersea tests are planned, and the missile is scheduled to become operational later this year.
The Tennessee, commissioned Dec. 17 in New London, Conn., is scheduled to be fitted with 24 of the missiles, each capable of propelling 10 nuclear warheads to different targets.