APL’s BOLT subscale model (above) undergoing wind tunnel testing at Purdue’s AFOSR Mach 6 Quiet Tunnel in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Credit: AFOSR/Johns Hopkins APL)

Strategic Deterrence Mission Area

Program Areas

Air Force Strategic Systems Program Area

In 2018, APL stood up the Air Force Strategic Systems (AFSS) Program Area to broaden APL’s deterrence mission contributions to the Air Force, building on more than 60 years of support to the Navy’s submarine-launched ballistic missile weapon system. Over the past decade, focused efforts have expanded to include the Air Force’s Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and the Missile Defense Agency’s flight test programs, Air Force and Navy nuclear mission assessments and interactive simulations, and the Sentinel follow-on ICBM replacement program. The AFSS mission is to provide critical science, engineering, analytical, and subject-matter expertise to the Air Force.

Strategic Hypersonics and Advanced Payloads Program Area

The Strategic Hypersonics and Advanced Payloads Program Area is focused on bringing complementary capabilities from early concept through deployment.

The program area champions the Conventional Prompt Strike weapon systems from inception through deployment and integration of advanced capabilities. We also prototype groundbreaking strategic reentry and related concepts to ensure the effectiveness of our nation’s strategic deterrence forces. Bridging these lines of work is a thrust area to develop new and novel testing capabilities to bring these hypersonic and reentry systems to the warfighter as fast as possible.

These major efforts rely on the legacy and technical foundation APL has built over the past 60 years through testing and evaluation of the Navy’s sea-based nuclear deterrence system.

Strategic Weapon Systems Engineering Program Area

For more than 60 years, Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) has been the technical and operational lead for the Navy’s sea-based nuclear deterrence systems. During this time, the Laboratory has had an enduring role as SSP’s independent evaluator. Because SSP and the nation have committed to the Navy’s deterrent capability through the rest of the century, it is critical to extend the life of the Trident II D5 weapon system for continued use on the Ohio submarine platform as well as the new Columbia-class platform.

Building on our independent evaluator strengths, the Laboratory continues to make critical contributions to the mission. We provide SSP with system-level technical and operational understanding and analyses to make the best acquisition decisions today and ensure the most capable, robust, and cost-efficient system for future deterrent needs in the face of uncertainty, technological change, future mission needs, and potential threat disturbances.

Strategic Systems Performance Analysis and Evaluation Program Area

The Strategic Systems Performance Analysis and Evaluation (SSPA&E) Program Area includes the Nuclear Weapons Surety Independent Evaluator (NWSuIE) for the Nuclear Weapons Surety and Security System, a Trident II D5 weapon system subsystem external to the submarine. NWSuIE analysis implements the same analytical framework and discipline as the Trident II D5 submarine-based weapon subsystems. SSPA&E provides an independent and unbiased analysis of the Surety and Security System’s performance.

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