DAHLGREN, Va. – Congressional and military leaders broke
ground for a new facility considered vital to the Navy's Submarine Launched
Ballistic Missile (SLBM) Program, March 18.
Four speakers - Capt. Brian Durant, Vice Adm. Terry
Benedict, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. - described the
building as crucial to the top-priority SLBM program responsible for 70 percent
of the nation's nuclear deterrent capability.
SLBM systems have provided a reliable, secure strategic
deterrent for the nation since 1960.
"What you do here today and in the future is
absolutely critical to the defense of our country," Benedict, the Navy's
Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) director, told a civilian and military
audience, predominantly Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD)
"The Ohio Replacement Program (ORP) and United
Kingdom's Vanguard Successor Program will require the expertise of Dahlgren in
order to be successful," said Benedict. "Your efforts have
specifically resulted in the 60 plus years of success for SSP and the Fleet
Ballistic Missile Program."
Wittman called the $22 million building, "a great
milestone" for the development of submarine launched ballistic missiles,
stating that it will enable Navy civilian scientists and engineers to keep
"our Fleet Ballistic Missile Programs on track".
The facility will feature state-of-the-art labs,
offices, and equipment for more than 300 NSWCDD Strategic and Computing Systems
Department scientists, engineers, and technical experts who develop, test, and
maintain the SLBM fire control and mission planning software.
"Our facilities are part of generating
readiness," said Wittman. "We want to ensure that you are working in
facilities that will enable you to do that job. Thank you for the fantastic
work you do."
NSWCDD has been a key member of the SLBM team since the
program's inception, and will continue throughout the next generation of
submarine known as the new Ohio-Replacement Program.
The first Ohio Replacement Submarine - a future nuclear
submarine designed to replace the Trident missile-armed Ohio-class ballistic
missile submarines - is scheduled to begin construction in 2021.
The speakers emphasized that the NSWCDD facility will
help ensure that the Ohio Replacement Submarine remains a strategic deterrent
into the 2080s.
"Ohio Replacement submarines are important to how
we keep this nation safe," said Kaine, adding that, "this program is
helping our greatest ally (Great Britain) help make the world safer."
In addition to the new NSWCDD Missile Support Facility,
the Ohio Replacement Program will use facilities managed by the Naval Research
Laboratory, Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and several industrial and shipyard
sites to perform early evaluation of ship systems and subsystems.
In his welcoming remarks, Durant recounted Dahlgren's
history, especially its ability to deliver unique solutions to the warfighter,
from a tractor mounted gun during World War I to the current laser weapon
system deployed on USS Ponce (AFSB-1).
"As we break ground on this new facility housing
our Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile program, we mark another great
milestone in the history of NSWC Dahlgren," said Durant, pointing out that
the SLBM program has a long association with NSWCDD.
"From the beginning, the Navy looked to Dahlgren
for a solution," he recounted. "Our engineers demonstrated that the
division was uniquely qualified to undertake the work, in large part because of
its experience in ballistic computations and the computing capability that
existed at that time at Dahlgren."
The command's SLBM accomplishments culminated in Jan. 7,
1960 with the first launch of a Polaris missile from a submarine - the USS George
Over 56 years later, the NSWCDD commanding officer
reflected on the impact of that launch at the groundbreaking for the command's
new Missile Support Facility.
"As a testament to the high quality of work
performed here at Dahlgren, the commander of the USS George Washington
(SSBN-598) relayed to President Eisenhower the success of the first submarine
launched ballistic missile: Polaris - from the deep to target - perfect,"
Over the years, the Polaris Program evolved to the
Poseidon Program and then to the Trident Program, each with greater targeting
"In 1970, roughly five branches with 75 people were
working on SLBM programs," said Durant. "Today, our Strategic &
Computing Systems Department has nearly 300 people still working on SLBM. This
new facility is a testament to the value of their efforts and what it provides
to the nation and will continue to reinforce the foundations of the SLBM
program here at Dahlgren."