National Nuclear Security Administration

W88 Alteration 370 program successfully moving forward

January 16, 2018

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Launch of a Trident II D5 Missile Test
A Trident II D5 Missile Test launch
W88 emblem

If you own a vehicle, then you understand the importance of maintenance – especially if your car is from the 80s and an entire nation is depending upon it.

The W88 nuclear warhead has been faithfully serving as a key component of our nuclear deterrent since it entered the weapons stockpile in 1988. The W88 Alteration (Alt) 370 program will replace the warhead’s Arming, Fuzing, and Firing (AF&F) subsystem and address other aging issues to maintain its current state of readiness.

The final design review of the AF&F subsystem, an important step in the Phase 6.x Process, was recently completed at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. An independent panel reviewed the AF&F requirements, as well as several other aspects of the electrical and mechanical design and manufacturing. The panel recommended a "pass with no conditions" – the best possible outcome – and praised the team for conducting an outstanding review. Some panel members, including a U.S. Navy representative, said that it was the best design review they had ever seen.

The good news doesn’t stop there – the Y-12 National Security Complex has been approved to build component parts for the W88 Alt 370 nearly two years ahead of schedule. This early engineering authorization will help ensure that the program stays on track when it reaches First Production Unit, currently scheduled for December 2019. The milestone was possible due to the qualification of several test specimens and the availability of pre-existing inventory.

The W88 is deployed on the Navy’s Trident II D5 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile system on Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. The W88 Alt 370 program is a joint effort by Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the Kansas City National Security Campus, the Pantex Plant, and the Savannah River Site.

The Ohio-class ballistic submarine USS Alabama returns to Naval Base Kitsap from a deterrent patrol. The USS Alabama is one of 1
The Ohio-class ballistic submarine USS Alabama returns to Naval Base Kitsap from a deterrent patrol. The Alabama is one of 14 Ohio-class submarines, which are armed with the W88 nuclear warhead.