The next generation of fleet ballistic missiles to follow Polaris was the Poseidon C-3 missile. Longer, larger and heavier than the Polaris, the C-3 carried multiple warheads, each of which could be targeted separately over a wider space and variety of target footprints. The C-3 Poseidon was twice as accurate and its warheads had twice the explosive power of the A-3. Considering these factors, experts believe the C-3 was eight times as deadly as the A-3.

The first submarine to carry and launch a C-3 missile was USS James Madison (SSBN-627) in August of 1970.


Designation Poseidon C-3 UGM-73A
Ship Class Used On USS Lafayette SSBN-616 and Benjamin Franklin SSBN-640 Class Submarines
Date In Service 1970
Weight 65,000 lbs. (29,484 kg)
Dimensions 74 X 408 in (188 X 1,036 cm)
Payload Up to 14 MIRV or ten 50 kt Mark 3 RV warheads
Range With MIRV: 2,500 nm
With RV: 3,200 nm
Propulsion 2 stage solid fuel rocket


Data from:

  • Lockheed-Martin Missile and Space
  • "The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems 1991/92" by Norman Friedman

China Lake Museum