US Navy opens new SLBM office

A new US Navy facility that will play an important part in the US Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) Program, was officially opened in a ceremony in Dahlgren on November 1.

The facility features labs, offices, and equipment for more than 300 NSWCDD Strategic and Computing Systems Department scientists, engineers, and technical experts who develop, test, and maintain critical portions for current and future missile systems.

Three guest speakers – Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe, US Rep. Rob Wittman, and Virginia Del. Margaret Ransone – described the Missile Support Facility as crucial to the top-priority SLBM program responsible for the bulk of the nation’s nuclear deterrent capability.

“This is quite an honor and privilege the United States Navy bestowed on us with all their priorities and we’re very grateful,” said John Fiore, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) technical director, in his welcoming remarks.

“From the beginning, the Navy looked to Dahlgren for solutions,” Fiore told the audience while recounting the command’s role in the first launch of a Polaris missile from a submarine – the USS George Washington (SSBN-598) – that accurately struck its target 1,100 miles down range 58 years ago. “As a testament to the high quality of work performed at Dahlgren, the commander of the USS George Washington relayed to President Eisenhower the success of the first submarine launched ballistic missile: ‘Polaris – from the deep to target – perfect’.”

“The men and women of NSWC Dahlgren have stood with us side by side for 60 plus years and will continue to stand with us side by side for the next 66 years,” said Wolfe – director of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs – in reference to the Columbia (SSBN-826) class strategic nuclear submarine program the Navy anticipates will be in effect until 2084.

The first of 12 Columbia nuclear submarines – designed to replace the Trident missile-armed Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines – is scheduled to begin construction in 2021.

The Navy has identified the Columbia-class program as the Navy’s top priority program. Currently, NSWCDD is in the research and development phase of the program. The future submarine is being designed to have a longer service life, better operational availability, and better survivability than its predecessors.

Columbia will serve as a sea-based strategic deterrence while rehosting the Trident II D5(LE) missile system, providing the most survivable leg of the nation’s nuclear triad.

The nuclear triad comprises platforms and weapons that serve as the backbone of US national security. The triad – Ohio-class nuclear submarines, strategic bombers, and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles – provides the nation with significant deterrent and decisive response capabilities.

Dahlgren’s SLBM experts will be able to collaborate more frequently and effectively as they deliver technologies that foster rapid development of SLBM capabilities in addition to the incorporation of new capabilities in existing software.

“The building is really the opportunity and the tool that’s needed for each and every one of you to do the spectacular job that you do,” said Wittman, chairman of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. “We are in an amazing turning of the page in the chapter of our strategic defense in this nation. Our triad is the most resilient and foundational element of what we do to protect this nation and I would argue that our SLBM is the most critical part of that triad.”

“Today’s ribbon cutting expands our capacity to sustain our weapons system into the future, keeping the Navy on the cutting edge of weapons systems technology,” said Jeff Kunkler, deputy program director for SLBM at Dahlgren in his remarks as master of ceremonies, pointing out the command’s work on the Columbia-class submarine. “We are beginning the planning for a life extension program for the Trident missile. We are also implementing several significant initiatives resulting from the recent Nuclear Posture Review, as we continue to sustain and support the current Fleet.”

Photo: The Navy’s new Missile Support Facility was formally dedicated at a ribbon cutting ceremony held at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), November 1. Photo: US Navy