Sentinel missile system completes another test
Northrop Grumman conducted its first full-scale static test fire of the Sentinel stage-one solid rocket motor at the company’s test facility in Promontory, Utah.
It tests the Sentinel design and helps move the project to the next stage of testing, according to a Northrop Grumman release.
The motor fired for the anticipated duration and met performance parameters and objectives within expected ranges, Sarah Willoughby, vice president of the Sentinel program, said in a release.
Northrop Grumman also used advanced testing equipment to increase data collection to better understand motor characteristics, according to a company release.
The Air Force is planning to replace all 1970s Minuteman III ICBM weapons systems with the Sentinel system.
The Sentinel missile features a three-stage booster, with Northrop Grumman producing stages one and two. The booster is a new design, using the latest materials and design technologies to ultimately improve performance, reliability, safety and sustainability, according to the company release.
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.