GBSD project hits another milestone

Northrop Grumman Corporation, the contractor for the Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, said this week that it successfully performed the first insulation and case wind of the missile’s first-stage solid rocket motor.

“Northrop Grumman performed the insulation wind around a plaster tooling mandrel. The insulation protects the outer casing of the motor from extreme temperatures caused by burning propellant inside the motor. Following insulation is the case wind process, which applies composite material around the insulation to form the outer structure, or shell, of the motor,” according to a company release.

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The company has started similar work for the second-stage motor, according to the release.

“This first-stage motor will now undergo testing to validate tooling and manufacturing processes as well as pressure-testing to ensure structural design integrity. The new GBSD missile will be a three stage solid rocket motor. Northrop Grumman is building the first and second stage,” according to the company.

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

The GBSD program would modernize the 1970s land-based intercontinental ballistic missile Minuteman III system.

Northrop’s nationwide team includes Aerojet RocketdyneBechtelCAEClarkCollins AerospaceGeneral DynamicsHDTHoneywellKratos Defense and Security SolutionsLockheed Martin, and Textron Systems, as well as hundreds of small and medium-sized companies from across the defense, engineering and construction industries.

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The 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.

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Malmstrom Air Force Base is set to be the second missile base to get the new system, according to the Secretary of the Air Force. F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming is scheduled as the first base and Minot in North Dakota is scheduled third.

Col. Jason Bartolomei is the Air Force GBSD program manager and at the Air Force Association’s Doolittle Leadership virtual forum on June 14, he said that test flights of the new missile will start by the end of 2023 and that it’s already starting in a modeling environment, Air Force Magazine reported.

He said that GBSD should have initial operational capability by 2029 and full operational capability with 400 missile by 2026. Air Force Magazine reported that GBSD will be deployed to missile silos an average of once a week for nine years.