On 21 March 1989 the USS Tennessee (SSBN-734) was at launch depth off the coast of Florida, her crew at battle stations-missile for the first developmental underwater flight test of the new Trident II D-5 missile. The only clue to the Tennessee’s location was her exposed telemetry antenna. The range was declared clear, and the countdown was under way. Conditions were perfect. Water cross-flow at the deck was near zero—thought to be the most benign launch condition. The missile was launched on schedule.
Trident II: Flipping a Flop
Its first launch from a submarine failed spectacularly. But the program bounced back, and 24 years later this most-successful Fleet ballistic missile is looking at a new lease on life.
By Vice Admiral Ken Malley, U.S. Navy (Retired)