File photo – An unarmed U.S. air force Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 1:23 pm Pacific Daylight Time Monday, May 14, 2018, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. (U. S. Air Force photo by Airman Aubree Milk)
The U.S. air force is taking certain steps to speed up by a measured, steady development plan for its new, next-generation Intercontinental Ballistic Missile in line with the more aggressive U.S. nuclear weapons strategy outlined in the administration of the Nuclear Posture Review.
The service is already the first technological advances in the design, and “systems engineering” for a new arsenal of icbm’s should be well in the 2070s – called Ground-Based Strategic Deterrence, or GBSD.
The most recent Nuclear Posture Review, released earlier this year, calls for an increase of the nuclear weapons applications as part of a broader strategy of deterrence. The NPR calls for new low-yield, nuclear-armed submarine launched ballistic missiles, among other things.
“We take the NPR of 2010 and turning it on its head….it contained no new mission. This new NPR changes that context, and calls for the deployment of more weapons. Let’s get things done, to perform at the time,” Gene. Timothy Ray, Commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, told reporters at the Air Force Association Convention.
The air force plans to fire off new prototype icbm’s in the early 2020 as part of a multi-year plan to design and implement next generation of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles by the late 2020 – by building weapons with an improved range, durability, focus on technology and the overall lethality, service officials said
“The sum total of what we are doing is a very large company, which is a reflection of the renewed interest,” Ray said.
Northrop Grumman and Boeing teams were awarded Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction offers from the air force last year as part of a longer-term development process aimed at the development, testing, shooting and, ultimately, the deployment of new icbms.
After a first 3 years of the development phase, the Air Force plans an Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase and the final deployment of the new weapons.
The air force plans to award the single EMD contract in late fiscal year 2020.
In short, the Air Force plans for the construction of 400 new GBSD weapons in the modernisation of the arsenal and the replacement of the 1970s-era Boeing-built Minuteman iii’s.
The new weapons will be developed with an improved guidance technology, boosters, flight systems, and command and control systems, in comparison with the existing Minuteman III missiles. The weapon will also have an upgrade performed on the circuits and are built with a mind to long-term maintenance and sustainability, developers said.
“What is new and different, is that we have to think about the necessary support and endurance,” Ray said.
First subsystem prototypes are included in the scope of the current Boeing and Northrop offers, service, developers said.
Senior nuclear weapons developers have told Warrior that upgraded guidance packages, sustainability, and new targeting technology are all under the current development focus for the GBSD.
The new icbms will be deployed approximately in the same geographical expanse in which the current weapons are stationed. In total scattered areas in three different sites span 33,600 km, including missiles in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Minot, North Dakota and Great Falls, Montana.
“We are taking a near, mid and far term assessment to ensure that we are not all of the risk in the same bucket,” Ray said.
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