The country was awed last weekend when the Navy executed an unannounced launch of a Trident D5 ballistic missile off the California coast. For those that watch for such things, the incredible visual event was clearly a rocket launch, for others it was a canvas on which to paint their wildest theories. But by examining the high-quality video below, an analysis posted on Imgur explained the Trident’s functioning in amazing detail.

(Editors note: This is the raw video from which the analysis was made, the analysis itself is linked below.)

This annotated series of video screen grabs from Saturday’s launch not only shows and explains the boost phase of the missile’s flight, but it also shows the more intimate stages of the Trident D5’s operation.

This includes simulated warhead delivery via the use of “flip turns” and other maneuvers of the assembly platform that holds the Trident’s multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVS).

This analyis is a remarkable testament to just how complex these weapons are, performing extro-atmospheric acrobatics after their more visible boost phase has completed. It is also a reminder of why we have to test these missiles occasionally, especially considering they will be hauled around deep below the sea for long periods of time with little maintenance.

Validating our long-range nuclear ballistic missile capability to the world may sound morbid, as using that capability operationally would probably mean the apocalypse, but it is entirely necessary. These missiles stand as our deterrent against such a reality ever happening. Testing them occasionally provides validation for our own military and civilian infrastructure structure that supports them, as well as reminding our potential enemies that our capabilities are very real and very, very deadly.

Bottom photos via US Navy (launch) and Wikicommons/Tene-commonswiki (graphic)

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Contact the author Tyler@Jalopnik.com