The first improved nuclear warhead called W88 Alt 370 is an update to the original W88 warhead. The finished product of the warhead was scheduled to finish last year; however, issues with a minor component caused a setback and substantial cost overruns.
The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, otherwise known as NNSA, made clear that the project represents “more than 11 years of design, development, qualification, and component production.”
The new nuclear warhead started production to improve the Navy’s Trident II D5 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile. This project is just the first of many currently in the process of modernizing America’s nuclear triad. The total cost of these projects is expected to reach billions over the next two decades. This calculation has moved some military leaders to re-examine how necessary the long-stang system is.
The improvements made on the warhead address aging and replaced many internal components; this includes the parts responsible for triggering the nuke.
The current W88 warhead is aboard 14 of the Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. These subs are nearing the end of their operational life and will be replaced with at least 12 new Columbia-class submarines, the first to arrive in 2027.