The W88 warhead belongs to the newest missile warhead family, sharing a design similar to the W87. It was designed for use on the Trident II (D5) SLBM. It combines a relatively high yield with increased accuracy to make it an effective hard target kill weapon. It is hardened against nuclear effects, and has enhanced safety features.
|Weight||<800 lb ?|
|RV Base Diameter||21.8 in|
|Nose Half Angle||8.2 degrees|
|Number In Service||400|
Two stage radiation implosion weapon.
RV CEP (circle error probability) is 300-400 feet
The basing mode of the W88 led to the adoption of lower criteria for warhead hardening and fire safety than the W-87 and thus lower weight. The reliance on stealth, and the absence of basing mode hardness (compared to fixed silos) reduced the need for shock hardening. The necessary compactness of the submarine carried Trident II, led to a design where the RVs are 'wrapped around' a high energy propellant upper stage. This in turn made a high degree of warhead fire safety pointless. The warhead thus uses a non-insensitive higher power explosive, and omits refractory insulation. The pit is not fire-resistant.
In the fall of 1990 Congress directed that a study be done on W-88 safety due to the use on non-insensitive high explosive. In December the study committee that redesigning the Trident II/W-88 system to use lower energy upper stage propellant, IHE, and a fire resistant pit, with reduced warhead loading (required under START in any case) would provide equal or superior performance and higher safety.
Contains oralloy (probably in second stage)
Uses PBX-9501 - an HMX-based plastic bonded explosive composition
Beryllium reflected plutonium fissile core for primary
Lithium-6 (95% enrichment) deuteride fusion fuel
Alumium substructure, sheathed in graphite-epoxy composite
Carbon fiber fabric nose
Carbon fiber-phenolic resin heatshield
Trident II (D-5) submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
See Principles of Nuclear Weapons Security and Safety for explanations of these features.
Fuzing options probably the same as the W87
Radiation hardened microprocessor based "smart" fuzing system with:
Designed and developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The design is based on work done before March 1976 Threshold Test Ban Treaty. Full yield tests of candidate designs were completed by that date.
The Mk-5 RV is basically identical to the Mk-21 used with the W87
4000-5000 originally planned, production was prematurely terminated by FBI raid on Rocky Flats in November 1989. Although the possibility of resuming W-88 production using recycled pits from other weapons was examined, on 29 January 1992 Admiral Watkins, Sec. of Energy, directed that production be halted permanently.
|March 1984||Development engineering begun at LANL|
|March 1986||Production engineering begun|
|September 1988||First production units completed|
|April 1989||Quantity production begun|
|November 1989||FBI raid on Rocky Flats shuts down production|
Initial manufacture September 1988
Initial operating capability achieved June 1989
Total production: 400
The W-88 will remain in the active stockpile under START II, equipping Trident II (D-5) SLBMs.