Air Force awards $13.3 billion contract for ICBM replacement

The U.S. Air Force has awarded an engineering and manufacturing development contract for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent to Northrop Grumman.

The GBSD system will replace the current Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system, which is in use at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

GBSD missile program progressing

According to the Air Force, the contract is $13.3 billion.

The GBSD system is the follow-on to the aging Minuteman III that first became operational in 1970.

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The GBSD “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 an Air Force release.

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The Air Force plans to deploy the system beginning in the late 2020s.

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

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Last year, Boeing dropped out of the running for the GBSD program, essentially leaving Northrup as the sole source contractor for the new weapons system.

In August, the Air Force said it plans to begin military construction activities as early as 2023 at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, related to GBSD.

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Malmstrom will be the second installation to begin military construction activities in 2026, with Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, beginning in 2029. The construction start dates are pending the completion of Environmental Impact Statements for each base in accordance with federal laws and policies.

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Military construction is phased ahead of the actual deployment of GBSD to allow time for initial beddown, ensure facilities are ready for any unique mission equipment, and support training and operational certification prior to the first sites obtaining operational status at each wing, according to an Air Force release.

Using infrastructure at current locations allows both the Minuteman III and GBSD weapons systems to continue meeting all nuclear surety and safety standards throughout their operational lives, particularly during the transition period, according to the Air Force release.

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In a Northrop Grumman release, the company said that the design, qualification, test and evaluation and nuclear certification phase of this portion of the project will span 8.5 years. Once this phase is complete, the company said it will begin producing and delivering the new weapons system for initial operational capability by 2029.

The EMD contract follows a three-year technology maturation and risk reduction phase-one effort under the GBSD competition.

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

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, as well as 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.