Sentinel is Air Force’s name for GBSD weapons system replacing ICBMs
The Air Force announced April 5 that the new ground based strategic deterrent, which will replace the intercontinental ballistic missiles, including those at Malmstrom Air Force Base, has been dubbed the LGM-35A Sentinel.
“Our nation’s nuclear deterrent force, two legs of which is operated by airmen, has quietly provided a strategic security shield for decades,” Kendall said in an Air Force release. “All that time, the Department of the Air Force has kept the watch; always vigilant and ready. The name Sentinel recognizes the mindset that thousands of airmen, past and present, have brought to the deterrence mission, and will serve as a reminder for those who operate, secure, and maintain this system in the future about the discipline and responsibility their duty entails.”
In September 2020, the Air Force awarded a $13.3 billion engineering and manufacturing development contract to Northrop Grumman for GBSD. Northrop Grumman has opened a facility in Great Falls related to the GBSD project in the former Fleet Supply building at 1401 25th Ave. N.E.
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.
The Air Force determined that replacing the current ICBM system would be cheaper than extending the life of the Minuteman III system and the new system is expected to last through 2075, according to the Air Force.
Malmstrom maintains 150 ICBM silos across its 13,800-square-mile complex in central Montana. The Air Force also operates silos at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming and the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. According to the Department of Defense, there are 450 silos in the United States with 400 missiles deployed at any time.
“The new system will incorporate low risk, technically mature components, feature a modular architecture that can easily incorporate emerging technology to adapt in rapidly evolving threat environments, and will be easier to maintain than the Minuteman system – all of which will enable cost-savings and ensure relevancy as the Sentinel operates well into the 2070s,” according to the Air Force.
Malmstrom Air Force Base is set to be the second missile base to get the new system, according to the Air Force. F.E. Warren AFB is scheduled as the first base and Minot is scheduled third.
Col. Jason Bartolomei is the Air Force GBSD program manager and at the Air Force Association’s Doolittle Leadership virtual forum in June 2021, 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 missiles by 2026. Air Force Magazine reported that GBSD will be deployed to missile silos an average of once a week for nine years.
“As the Air Force celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, the Minuteman III weapon system has been and will continue to be integral to our nation’s defense,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. said in a release. “As we look ahead to the next 75 years, investing in nuclear modernization is as relevant as ever and we are committed to transitioning to the Sentinel, which will ensure our nation is ready to provide strategic deterrence for tomorrow.”
“Sentinel is the next-generation, capable ICBM we need,” Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander, Air Force Global Strike Command, and former Malmstrom commander, said in a release. “Nuclear deterrence is central to our defense posture and more important now than it’s ever been. This system will be a highly resilient and capable deterrent that will bring global stability to us and our allies for decades to come.”
The Sentinel will not just be a new missile but a fully integrated launch, flight and infrastructure system with modern command and control features. It will backstop our Nation’s integrated deterrence and provide the bedrock for a stable international order for our partners and allies.