Air Force secretary visits Malmstrom
Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall visited Malmstrom Air Force Base on Dec. 22.
Sen. Jon Tester, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, invited the secretary earlier this month and on Wednesday, the secretary toured the based with Sen. Steve Daines.
In an interview with The Electric, Daines said he and the secretary met with the base commander, toured some operations and had a classified briefing on emerging threats and Malmstrom’s role in defending against those.
“Malmstrom is such a great example of peace through strength,” Daines said.
Daines said that they discussed the threats posed by China during the visit and that when he was younger, the primary nuclear threat was Russia, but China was making investments in its military and nuclear capabilities.
The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022, which began Oct. 1, earlier in December and the legislation included the following provisions related to China:
- Directs the President to develop a classified “Grand Strategy with Respect to China;”
- Directs the Defense Department to put together several reports on China’s activities, from their military and security developments, modernization technologies for their military applications, to their strategy in Latin American and the Caribbean;
- Includes provision that prohibits the U.S. from buying products produced in forced labor camps in Xinjiang;
- Authorizes $7.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, $2 billion increase above the President’s budget request.
Daines said the emerging threats from China are another reason the Air Force needs to upgrade the aging Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system to the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent system and the NDAA included $2.5 billion for that project.
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 Rocketdyne, Bechtel, CAE, Clark, Collins Aerospace, General Dynamics, HDT, Honeywell, Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, Lockheed Martin, and Textron Systems, as well as hundreds of small and medium-sized companies from across the defense, engineering and construction industries.
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.
Malmstrom 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.
The NDAA also included a 2.7 percent servicemember pay raise, new funding for the Montana National Guard and $91 million for MH-139 Grey Wolf helicopters at Malmstrom.
Daines said that there have been some delays with the Grey Wolf, but he expects them to begin arriving at Malmstrom in the next 12-18 months.
In a statement, Tester said, “I’m pleased that Air Force Secretary Kendall took me up on my invitation to tour Malmstrom Air Force Base so he can see firsthand the critical role the installation plays in our national defense. As the Defense Subcommittee Chairman, I will keep working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure our airmen and women at Malmstrom have the tools and resources they need to do their job and defend the United States.”
Earlier this year, Tester hosted Gen. Charles Brown, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and Gen. Timothy Ray, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, for a tour of Malmstrom.