"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Friday, February 20, 2009

Poetry of Death - From Launch to Detonation


Chances are you have never seen the official "Launch Sequence" of a Trident D-5 nuclear missile. Glen Milner, of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, acquired (through a Freedom of Information request) the document containing the sequence of events surrounding the launch of a D-5, from pushing a button to detonation of the warhead. And that is where it ends, or would end should a weapons officer on board a Trident nuclear submarine ever depress "the tactical firing trigger", starting the sequence of events that would result in a genocide of unimaginable proportions.

Of course, for those not instantly vaporized, incinerated, or torn apart by the blast and thermal effects, it would only be the beginning of the end, whether they died in minutes, hours, days or weeks due to the effects of ionizing radiation. But I digress. What Glen has done is to add his own introduction to the launch sequence, and invites us to read it as he came to see it; to quote Glen, "like the poetry of death."

Here is Glen's contribution to the world of nuclear poetry, Launch Sequence--Instructions for the End of Time.

Towards Peace,



Launch Sequence--

Instructions for the End of Time

I have been involved in anti-war work and research for over 25 years. I know that war is not the answer. We must learn to love our enemies more than ourselves.

Recently I received documents from the U.S. Navy reminding me of the importance of finding new ways to solve our differences. Sandwiched in a packet of information released through the Freedom of Information Act was the launch sequence for the Trident D-5 missile. Reading like the poetry of death was a description of the missile’s flight through the stratosphere to deliver its nuclear payload.

It begins:

Launch and Flight Sequence.
2 Upon completion of missile prepare, the weapons officer depresses the tactical firing trigger to initiate the launch command. This causes the coded charge and trigger signals to be routed to the launch gas generator firing unit, resulting in gas generator ignition. The following sequence of events will then occur during a normal launch and flight:

1. The missile is ejected from the submarine launch tube by a mixture of gas and steam.

2. After the missile travels a specified distance, the first stage rocket motor ignites and the aerospike deploys.

3. For flight, guidance issues steering commands to align the missile in order to achieve the desired trajectory.

4. During first stage flight, the RB launch accelerometer closes and latches, the RB long life thermal battery is activated and the intent word is sent from flight control electronics to each RB to enable the first dual stronglink assembly safing wheel.

5. The second stage rocket motor ignites and first stage separation occurs.

6. The missile nose fairing is separated and ejected clear of the missile flight path.

7. The third stage rocket motor ignites and second stage separation occurs.

8. The guidance subsystem determines that the missile is on course and, at the proper time, sends the signals for third stage separation.

9. During missile flight, the flight control electronics creates an in-flight profile word based on six critical trajectory events. Subsequent to third stage separation, the in-flight profile word is used to enable the second dual stronglink assembly safing wheel in each RB.

10. The maneuverable equipment section, following a stellar guidance update, flies to its required position, releases an RB, and proceeds to its next position. These steps are repeated until all RBs have been released. Each RB receives a safe-to-arm signal (STAS) at release.

11. Each RB continues on its ballistic trajectory and stabilizes upon reentering the atmosphere.

12. The reentry thermal battery (RTB) is activated.

13. The arming signal is sent to the fire set when all fuzing conditions have been satisfied.

14. The warhead is fully armed.

15. Depending on the selected burst option, the firing signal is generated by one of several components.

16. The warhead detonates.

Glen Milner lives in Seattle and is a member of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo, Washington. Please see web page http://www.gzcenter.org/.

1 Note that an RB (reentry vehicle) in this description is one of eight reentry bodies on a D-5 missile, each containing a nuclear warhead and designed for reentering the earth’s atmosphere.
There are over 1,600 nuclear warheads deployed at Naval Submarine Base Bangor. Each, when mated with its delivery system--the Trident D-5 missile, can travel distances of over 4,500 miles and strike within 300 feet of their intended targets. During flight, the missile attains speeds in excess of 20,000 feet per second, delivering warheads to targets in 10 to 15 minutes. The warheads stationed at Bangor are currently all 100 kiloton Mark-4/W76 type but will include 475 kiloton Mark-5/W88 warheads with the deployment of the new D-5 missiles, scheduled for Bangor in 2002.
The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan in 1945 was approximately 15 kilotons.

2 Freedom of Information Act response dated October 31, 2001 to Glen Milner from the Chief of Naval Operations, Nuclear Weapon System Safety Group Report of the Operational Safety Review of the Trident II (D-5) Strategic Weapon System with W88-0/MK5 Reentry Body Assemblies and/or W76-0/MK4 Reentry Body Assemblies, NWSSG Report 1037-3, pages 2-10 through 2-12. August 21, 1991.


  1. Great blog for all of us

  2. All the more reason we need more nukes!