Air Force, Nortrop Grumman continuing progress on new missile system

Work to replace the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system in use at Malmstrom Air Force Base and two other missile bases is underway.

Some landowners may have received letters from the Air Force recently related to the project as the Air Force is conducting field studies of Malmstrom’s 13,800-square-mile missile complex to “identify and document potential threatened and endangered species, wetlands, or archaeological areas of concern that may impact project planning and implementation,” according to a release.

Air Force release draft environmental assessment for GBSD testing phase

Right of entry request letters were sent to landowners who may have a portion of their property that the Air Force may need to access to conduct the studies. The request allows the Air Force and its contractors to access private property to conduct the surveys and preliminary analysis shows that more than 90 percent of new utility corridors related to the project would be on private land, according to an Air Force release.

Utility corridors would generally be aligned along established roads and would be in addition to the existing utilities connection to the launch facilities and missile alert facilities, according to the Air Force.

Air Force beginning environmental impact study process for ICBM replacement system

“Activities along the utility corridors would require clearing and grubbing sufficient to provide access to the area and enable installation of the utility lines. Upon completion of the new corridors and easements, disturbed areas would be reseeded and restored, as necessary,” according to the Air Force. 

GBSD missile program progressing

The field studies are beginning in the project area and for the most part, survey work will be done by a team of two to four biologists or archaeologists who will walk through the survey area to identify and document potential threatened and endangered species and habitat suitable to support them, wetlands or archaeological areas of concern, according to the Air Force.

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This is preliminary fact-finding work that will inform the development of an environmental impact statement, according to the Air Force.

Last fall, the Air Force issued its notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement to “evaluate potential impacts on the human and natural environments of deploying the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent intercontinental ballistic missile system and decommissioning and disposing of the Minuteman III ICBM system.”

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The Air Force accepted public comment last fall and the draft EIS is planned for publication in spring 2022 with another public comment period and hearing; final EIS publication and the final record of decision in spring 2023.

The Air Force is collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the project and landowners with questions about the letter or agreement they received can visit http://www.gbsdeis.com, speak with someone at the USACE office by calling 1-800-265-9309 or they can make contact via email at ROEhelpdesk@usace.army.mil.

Reservists now pulling nuclear alert at Malmstrom, other ICBM bases

The Air Force is planning to replace all 1970s Minuteman III ICBM weapons systems with the currently being developed GBSD system.

In September 2020, the Air Force awarded a $13.3 billion contract to Northrop Grumman for the engineering and manufacturing development of GBSD.

In late March, Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17), have introduced the Investing in Cures Before Missiles Act, which would stop the further development of the GBSD and direct those savings toward development of a universal coronavirus vaccine. 

According to Markey’s office, the bill would life-extend the current Minuteman III ICBM and redirect $1 billion of the unobligated balances to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to conduct or support research for the development of a universal coronavirus vaccine.

Sen. Jon Tester’s office said they believe it’s unlikely the proposal will gain traction, but told The Electric that, “Sen. Tester believes we can get every American vaccinated and shore up our national defense at the same time, and strongly opposes this proposal. When he disagrees with his own party, he will defend Montana and say so.”

The current phase of the GBSD project includes modernizing and replacing all launch facilities, communication systems, infrastructure, and technologies as necessary to support the GBSD system, according to the Air Force’s notice.

The EMD phase includes full system design, qualification, test and evaluation and nuclear certification. Once this phase is completed, Northrop Grumman will begin producing and delivering a modern and fully integrated ICBM system to meet the Air Force’s schedule of initial operational capability by 2029, according to Northrop Grumman.

Malmstrom still set to receive new helicopter first, no change in delivery order

On April 7, Northrop Grumman announced it had successfully conducted the integrated baseline review for the GBSD engineering and manufacturing development program, a milestone that sets the performance measurement baseline and keeps the program on track for 2029, according to a company release. 

Integrated baseline review occurs within the first 180 days of contract award to set cost and schedule baseline, identify and quantify risks, and ensure mitigation plans are in place when executing the program, according to a Northrop Grumman release.

During the review, Northrop Grumman and the Air Force developed a common understanding about the project’s baseline as it relates to technical, schedule, cost, resource, and management process risks and their impacts.