Boeing: Sustaining Minuteman III while planning for next-generation ICBM
Representatives from Boeing were back in Minot this past week to discuss with local leaders the company’s role in sustaining the current intercontinental ballistic weapons systems and the work under way to develop the next generation ICBM system.
Dr. Patti Dare, global sales and marketing director for Boeing’s Strategic Deterrence Systems, and Andy Healy, a senior manager for business development and strategy for Boeing’s Missile and Weapons Systems, said Boeing has supported the Minuteman ICBM operations at Minot Air Force Base and in the Minot missile field for several decades. The B-52 bombers at Minot AFB also were built by Boeing and continue to be maintained.
Last year, the Air Force selected Boeing as one of the two contractors for the next generation ICBM system called the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent or GBSD. Northrop Grumman was also selected as a contractor.
On Oct. 9, 1958, the Air Force announced its selection of Boeing as assembly and test contractor for the Minuteman missile, beginning one of the most complex, largest and longest running programs in Boeing history, according to Boeing information. The first Minuteman site went into operation at Malmstrom AFB, Mont. It was rushed into activation on Oct. 27, 1962, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis. President Kennedy referred to the missiles as his “ace in the hole” during the historic standoff with the Soviet Union.
The 91st Missile Wing at Minot AFB, then the 455th Strategic Missile Wing, arrived at Minot Air Force Base in 1968.
“Boeing built the Minuteman system when we got the contract in 1958,” said Healy. He said Boeing’s been in Minot ever since work began on the missile field in the area several decades ago.
“We’re ready to repeat the process again and put a new system out in the field – a missile system that the Air Force wants and the nation needs.”
“We’re committed to the modernization of the nuclear triad,” Dare added.
Healy said that previously Boeing teamed up with people in the Minot community starting with the contract award in 1958. He said local people know the working conditions – the weather, the roads and everything – “and know how best to work through those conditions so that we can lower the risk and deliver as planned.”
GBSD is the ICBM replacement program.
“We competed for the next phase of Minuteman which is the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent and we were awarded one of two contracts in August of 2017. We started executing the contract day one of the award,” said Dare.
GBSD is the replacement of the entire missile system, according to Dare. “It is the entire weapon system that the Air Force is trying to replace. It’s the missile as well as the command and control and the infrastructure to support the system.”
Currently, Boeing is working on the technical maturation and risk reduction phase.
“This will shape the requirements going into the engineering, manufacturing and development phase,” said Dare.
The technical maturation and risk reduction phase runs from August 2017 to August 2020. The award for the engineering, manufacturing and development phase is scheduled for August 2020 or at the end of the three-year performance for the technical maturation and risk reduction phase.
“We want all the local communities involved in our design and what we are providing for our solution to the Air Force,” Dare said.
From Layton, Utah, Healy joined Boeing three years ago when he retired from the Air Force after a 25-year military career. The majority of his military career was ICBM assignments, including being stationed at Minot AFB twice – as a combat crew member and as commander of the 91st Missile Maintenance Squadron. A U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, he has a master’s degree in space studies from the University of North Dakota and another master’s degree military operational arts and sciences from the U.S. Air Force Air Command and Staff College at Montgomery, Ala.
Working with Boeing out of Hill AFB at Ogden, Utah, he said one of the reasons he wanted to work for the company is because it gives him the chance to work around and with the weapon system that the company designed “in the ’50s with slide rules.”
He said Minuteman III, the current ICBM, was only supposed to last 10 years – from 1970 to 1980. “Lo and behold, it’s 2018 and it’s going to last another 20-some years. It’s amazing and it’s a testament to the folks at the base that keep it going year after year,” he said. He said the B-52s are going to be around for a long time as well – until the 2050s.
Dare, of Huntsville, Ala., was deputy program manager for the GBSD Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction contract before transitioning to focus on Boeing’s GBSD Engineering, Manufacturing and Development efforts.
Before joining Boeing, she was with Davidson Technologies, Inc., Lockheed Martin and Honeywell International. She has a doctorate of philosophy in chemistry from the University of South Florida and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Southern Indiana. She serves on the foundation board of directors for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and The University of Alabama, Huntsville, Engineering board.
The Boeing representatives previously visited Minot about a year ago. At that time, Dare said they attended the dedication of the Minuteman model the Chamber donated to the base.
Their visits, she said, will include local businesses that might have capability they can utilize for the next phase. “It could be construction, networks, cybersecurity, engineering – mechanical, electrical – workforce development,” she said.
The missile silos are to remain but some refurbishing might be needed, depending on the condition of the silos, Dare said. The Minot missile field has 150 missile silos.
Boeing is planning for GBSD while also being involved in sustaining Minuteman III.
“That’s one of those things everybody in the Department of Defense, in industry and in Congress agree that you can’t let Minuteman fall by the wayside while you’re planning for GBSD,” Healy said.
The Boeing representatives are also visiting the two other Minuteman bases and their local communities – F.E. Warren AFB at Cheyenne, Wyo., and Malmstrom AFB at Great Falls, Mont.