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Work progressing on next-gen ICBM program

Submitted Photo From right, 1st Lt. Alexander Hansen, 742nd Missile Squadron mission lead, and 2nd Lt. Elizabeth Jordan, 742nd Missile Squadron missileer, process a technical order checklist, shown in this Jan. 15, 2019, Minot Air Force Base photo. Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, the next generation intercontinental ballistic missile program, will replace the present Minuteman III ICBM program in the future at Minot AFB and the two other missile bases.

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE – Progress is well on its way on the next generation intercontinental ballistic missile program to replace the existing one at Minot Air Force Base and two other Air Force bases.

Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) is not just the missiles but an entirely new system that will use the existing silos in the missile fields at Minot AFB, F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming and Malmstrom AFB, Montana. The existing missile system, LGM-30G Minuteman III ICMB, first became operational in 1970.

“In September, the GBSD program office awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman for the GBSD program’s Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase,” said Leah Bryant, chief of Public Affairs and Legislative Liaison for Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.

“Development activities are progressing and on track toward the EMD phase’s first major milestone, an Integrated Baseline Review, to be held in spring of this year,” Bryant told the The Minot Daily News on Jan. 11.

The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center is the lead for the Department of the Air Force’s GBSD acquisition effort, according to Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs. The center is responsible for synchronizing all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of Air Force Materiel Command in direct support of Air Force Global Strike Command.

Submitted Photo The 91st Missile Maintenance Squadron electromechanical team readies a launch facility site for crane operations near Minot Air Force Base in this March 19, 2019, Minot AFB photo. The launch facility batteries weigh 1,450 pounds each and are craned 25 feet below ground. Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, the next generation intercontinental ballistic missile program, will replace the Minuteman III ICBM program in the future.

“The GBSD ICBM will have increased accuracy, enhanced security and improved reliability to provide the U.S. with an upgraded and broader array of strategic nuclear options to address the threats of today and the future,” according to Air Force information.

On Sept. 8, 2020, the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman Corp. with the $13.3 billion contract for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase of GBSD.

Northrop Grumman officials said in a news release issued Sept. 8 that the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center said the effort will span eight and a half years and include weapon system design, qualification, test and evaluation and nuclear certification.

Upon successful completion of EMD, the Northrop Grumman team will begin producing and delivering a modern and fully integrated weapon system to meet the Air Force schedule of initial operational capability.

The EMD award follows a highly successful three-year technology maturation and risk reduction (TMRR) phase-one effort under the GBSD competition,” according to Northrop Grumman.

Work on the program will be performed at the Northrop Grumman GBSD facilities in Roy and Promontory in Utah, and other key Northrop Grumman sites across the U.S. that include Huntsville and Montgomery in Alabama; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Bellevue, Nebraska; San Diego and Woodland Hills in California; Chandler, Arizona; Annapolis Junction, Maryland; and at Northrup Grumman’s nationwide team locations across the country, according to Northrup Grumman officials.

They said the Northrop Grumman GBSD team includes Aerojet Rocketdyne, Bechtel, Clark Construction, Collins Aerospace, General Dynamics, HDT Global, Honeywell, Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, L3 Harris, Lockheed Martin, Textron Systems, and hundreds of small and medium-sized companies from across the defense, engineering and construction industries. Overall, the GBSD program will involve over 10,000 people across the U.S. directly working on the GBSD program.

“The GBSD is an integral part of modernizing our nation’s nuclear forces and ensuring that we maintain a strong strategic deterrent,” said Sen. John Hoeven. “We’ve worked hard to provide the funding to keep this program on budget and on time. We look forward to continuing to work with Northrop Grumman to ensure that our nation’s land-based ICBMs, including those stationed at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, are ready and able to protect our nation and deter our enemies.”

Hoeven is a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee.

Bryant said that after the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase is completed, the GBSD program office will award a contract for Low-Rate Initial Production, or LRIP.

“The Department of the Air Force projects GBSD deployment will begin in the late 2020s and be completed by the mid-2030s,” Bryant said.

ICBMs part of nuclear triad

Land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles are part of the nuclear triad. The two other legs of the triad are strategic aircraft with nuclear bombs and missiles, and nuclear missile-armed submarines.

Minot AFB has two legs of the nuclear triad. The 5th Bomb Wing has B-52 bombers and the 91st Missile Wing has the Minuteman III ICBMs located in the Minot missile field.

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