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) personnel.
"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 Washington (SSBN-598).
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," said Durant.
Over the years, the Polaris Program evolved to the Poseidon Program and then to the Trident Program, each with greater targeting accuracy requirements.
"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."