Air Force requests proposals for new intercontinental ballistic missile system

Minot AFB one of three

Submitted Photo An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 2:42 am Pacific on May 1 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., shown in this Air Force photo. The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent ICBM is the follow-on to the Minuteman III, which first became operational in the mid-1960s.

KIRTLAND AFB, N.M. – The Air Force released a request for proposals for its Ground Based Strategic Deterrent intercontinental ballistic missile weapon system program on July 16, according to a news release from Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center Public Affairs.

GBSD is the follow-on to the LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBM, which first became operational in the mid-1960s. Minot Air Force Base’s 91st Missile Wing is one of the Air Force’s three ICBM wings along with wings at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., and Malmstrom AFB, Mont.

While some components and subsystems of the Minuteman III have been upgraded over the years, most have supported over 50 years of continuous operation.

The request is for the weapon system’s Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase and includes five production lot options to produce and deploy the weapon system.

The two contractors for GBSD’s current Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction phase, Boeing and Northrop Grumman, will compete for the EMD contract. The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center expects to award the contract in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020.

In May, Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, expressed the need to upgrade nuclear capability and modernization to maintain a deterrence edge, according to the news release. She said it no longer makes financial sense to continue to upgrade or extend the life of existing Minuteman III ICBMs and the new GBSD weapon system must be brought online.

“There is no margin to do another service life extension program on Minuteman III, because not only would it be more expensive than developing GBSD, but you would not have the resiliency in the capability because you would not have the modern equipment, you would not have the actual capabilities from a functional range point of view (or) warhead capability,” Lord said. “So we need to, by 2028, start replacing (ICBMs).”

Senior Air Force leaders also support the new GBSD system, according to the news release.

“If you look at the threat that we face, Russia just completed their modernization of their triad this year…because they know they cannot defeat us–and certainly can’t defeat NATO–conventionally,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Dave Goldfein at a congressional committee hearing in April. “So, our modernization and recap of the triad is just in time because in the missile leg, key parts of that program expire right about the time that we bring on the new Ground Based Strategic Deterrent to replace it.”

The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center is the lead for the Air Force’s GBSD acquisition effort.

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