Boeing team visits Great Falls while working on ICBM replacement program
A team from Boeing visited Great Falls last week to meet with community leaders as Boeing works on the first phase of developing the ground based strategic deterrent.
GBSD is the missile system that will replace the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile currently in use at Malmstrom Air Force Base, as well as F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming and Minot AFB in North Dakota.
The Air Force awarded two contracts last summer, one to Boeing and one to Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation for the technology maturation and risk reduction phase. This phase is scheduled to last about 36 months and then the Air Force will select a single contractor for the engineering and development phase.
Boeing’s contract for this phase is $349 million. Northrop’s is $328 million.
Andy Healy, a senior manager for business development and strategy for Boeing’s missile and weapons system division, said the conversion from ICBM to GBSD will take community support reminiscent of when Boeing installed the first Minuteman I missile at Malmstrom in the 1960s.
Healy said the Boeing team is hoping to work with the community since people here know weather, road and terrain conditions best and that knowledge will help them design a missile system that the Air Force has indicated should last through 2075.
Currently, there are 450 Minuteman III silos across all three ICBM missile complexes, though the Air Force put 50 silos into warm status at any time to comply with New START, the nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia. That means the missile is pulled from those silos, allowing for maintenance and repairs, but the missile can be put back at any time. The 50 silos in warm status rotate throughout the missile complex.
Healy said they’ve been told the system will reuse the existing 150 missile launch sites at each base, but beyond that, the configuration is the trade space.
The visit is also helping the Boeing team determine the availability of material and workers in the region to inform their planning and budgeting.
“There’s no way we’re just going to truck all that in,” he said.
Healy said they want to engage the region now so businesses and educators can start preparing to participate in the project.
Patti Dare, global sales and marketing director for Boeing’s strategic deterrence systems, said the Air Force has asked for a modular system. That allows the Air Force to compete upgrades to the system individually, keeping costs lower over time, since no one company will own the design.
Instead, the Air Force has said it will own the technical baseline and Dare said that has been a known factor from the start. It’s not an issue for Boeing in this competition, Dare said.
In the competition to replace the UH-1N Huey helicopters used at Malmstrom and the other missile bases, Sikorsky has filed a pre-award protest claiming the Air Force’s requirement to own the technical baseline on contracts is overreaching.