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Next generation intercontinental ballistic missile program moves to next step

HILL AFB, UTAH – The Air Force has reviewed and approved Northrop Grumman’s preliminary design for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent in late April, advancing the program toward its next milestone and acquisition phase, according to Air Force information.

The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, also known as GBSD, program will modernize or replace the current Minuteman III ICBM’s systems for command and control, launch and flight.

Minot Air Force Base is one of three bases with ICBMs in underground facilities. The Minot missile field covers several counties. F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming and Malmstrom AFB in Montana also have Minuteman III ICBMs.

Under the Defense Acquisition System, the Preliminary Design Review assesses the maturity of the preliminary design, as supported by requirement trades, prototyping, system reviews, etc.

“The PDR ensured Northrop Grumman’s design is sufficiently mature and ready to proceed into detailed design with acceptable risk, and will meet performance requirements within budget and on schedule,” said Col. Jason Bartolomei, GBSD system program manager.

From April 28-30, the Air Force hosted the PDR meetings in a secure virtual environment at 19 locations across the United States, connecting over 25 government organizations.

“Accomplishing this PDR is a huge success for the program, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bartolomei said.

“GBSD is the most cost-effective option for maintaining a safe, secure and effective ground-based leg of the nuclear triad,” Bartolomei said. “It will address capability gaps to meet warfighter requirements, maintaining the preeminence of America’s ground-based nuclear strategic deterrent.”

The GBSD program is currently in its Technology and Maturation Risk Reduction phase. The Air Force anticipates receiving Department of Defense approval to enter Milestone B later this year and awarding the contract for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase before the end of the fiscal year.

The Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase will conclude with the development, test and evaluation of the GBSD system, before it proceeds into the Production and Deployment phase. Deployment of the new ICBM is planned to begin in the late 2020s and span about nine years.

Located at Hill AFB, the GBSD program office is part of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center headquartered at Kirtland AFB, N.M.

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