Modernizing the ICBMs

Northrop Grumman team back in Minot for more planning

Eloise Ogden/MDN Members of the Northrop Grumman Ground Based Strategic Deterrent team visited Minot last week. From the left are retired Col. Tom Cullen, a former ICBM commander; John MacMartin, president of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce; Carol Erikson, vice president of the GBSD program at Northrop Grumman; Caitlin O’Connor, Public Relations manager, Space Systems, at Northrop Grumman; and retired Brig. Gen. Russ Anarde, a former ICBM commander.

Members of the Northrop Grumman team for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, the nation’s next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile system, were back in Minot to make continuing plans for the program.

On Feb. 28, team members met with Minot Mayor Chuck Barney, Minot Area Chamber of Commerce and Task Force 21 representatives. Task Force 21 is Minot’s base retention and new mission group.

This past August the Air Force selected Northrop Grumman as one of the two contractors for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent or GBSD. Boeing was also selected as a contractor.

“We’re very proud to be selected by the Air Force for their partner for the ICBM system going forward,” said Carol Erikson, vice president of Northrop Grumman’s GBSD program in the Los Angeles area.

“One of the things we really want to emphasize is the importance of the integrated system,” Erikson said. “GBSD is the next-generation ICBM system. It’s an all new command-and-control, communications, all new missile.”

Eloise Ogden/MDN The Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system will be replaced in the future with the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, the next generation ICBM system. A Minuteman III ICBM launch control facility in the Minot missile field is shown in this photo.

The missile silos will be the same and the use of the existing silos, according to Erikson.

“It’s an entirely new system, not just the missile – all wrapped around cyber resilient, nuclear surety environment so it’s really critical for the nation that we pursue this as a system and look to optimize across the command-and-control and the missile, the communications and really build that cyber resiliency in from the start,” Erikson said.

The current Air Force timeline is three years so in 2020 the current contracts will culminate in a preliminary design review that year. At that time one of the two contractors will be selected to continue on through the detailed design and the initial production, according to Erikson.

“One of the other important aspects of this system is for the first time the Air Force is really looking forward for the next 50 years,” Erikson said.

She said the current timeline is for the initial deployment in the late 2020s and the final system capability in the late 2030s.

“But they’ve asked the contractors to look out to 2075 and build the system so that it can be flexible and adaptable, so that as threats change over the course of time, as technologies change over the course of time, that it’s really easy to maintain and upgrade the system,” Erikson said.

“The original Minuteman systems were designed for 10 years of life. Sixty years later we’re still operating and maintaining them so it’s a different paradigm to be looking ahead and saying we know these systems are going to be operating for the next 50 years, how can we design it to make it most affordable? What we say is reduce the life cycle cost over the course of those 50 years by thinking ahead for that,” she said.

According to public information, Northrop Grumman and Boeing each were awarded contracts amounting to between about $328 million and $350 million-plus over the three years.

“Because of the importance of this to the nation, both Boeing and Northrop are bringing their own investments to supplement that and make sure we’re maturing technologies and really preparing for the future of the ICBM system,” Erikson said.

Northrop Grumman’s currently on contract for the next three years. If the company is awarded the next contract in 2020, the EMD – Engineering, Manufacturing and Development – contract, basically the company would be maturing the design, going through the tests and the initial production and the initial deployment of the system,” Erikson said.

The next step is the full production.

“The EMD contract would probably be in the order of eight to 10 years,” Erikson said. That contract would go to the end of the 2020s and then from the late 2020s to the late 2030s would be the production contract or when the full set of missiles would be produced (and) deploy the full system into the field at all three sites (Minot AFB, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., and Malmstrom AFB, Mont. missile fields),” she said.

The operations and sustainment phase would be from the 2030s all the way to 2075.

Erikson said the number of missiles will be an Air Force decision and the contractors will support the Air Force in terms of the total number of missiles.

According to Erikson it is too early to have the number of people who would be the sustained presence in the Minot community, both for the initial deployment and the operations for the long term of the system. But the 2020s would be the timeframe when people would be at Minot and the other ICBM areas for the new missile system work.

During the Northrop Grumman team’s meeting in Minot, Minot representatives were updated on the GBSD.

Erikson said they were also here to learn about and understand any unique opportunities or challenges there might be in the community, for example, if housing is available or if it is not available.

She said the team and Minot group also talked about developing the next-generation of advocates, both in industry and in the community.

“This system is going to be critically important for the nation for the next 60 years,” Erikson said. “It’s been important to the nation for the last 60 years, it’s going to be critically important for the next 60 years and beyond so how do we collectively generate that next generation of talent that will be interested in supporting the system, working on the system, advocating for the system and understanding the importance of it to the nation?”

At Northrop Grumman she said they are already investing in the next-generation of talent by bringing in high school and college interns and also new hires as they graduate from college who are already supporting GBSD. She said they are taking important steps to make sure they pair them with people who have supported the ICBM system through the course of their career and making sure they are starting that knowledge transfer now.

Over the past weeks, the Northrop Grumman team has been visiting the ICBM communities.

Other team members who were in Minot with Erikson were retired Brig. Gen. Russ Anarde and retired Col. Tom Cullen, both of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Caitlin O’Connor, Public Relations manager, Space Systems, for Northrop Grumman, also of the Los Angeles area.

Anarde and Cullen are familiar with the Minot area. Anarde was commander of Minot AFB’s 91st Missile Wing and Cullen was a combat crew member with the base’s 740th Missile Squadron. Retired Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, former deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command and commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, also is a team member.

Northrop Grumman has been involved from the beginning of the ICBM system and from the installation of the first systems here in the early 1960s, according to Erikson

“Over 50 years we’ve had an important partnership with the communities and we want to make sure that we continue that partnership going forward,” she said.