Air Force awards $996 million contract for Sentinel component

The Air Force awarded a $996,215,214 contract to Lockheed Martin for another component of the Sentinel ground based strategic deterrent that will replace the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system.

On Oct. 30, the Air Force awarded the contract for the engineering, manufacturing and design to provide a low technical risk and affordable reentry vehicle for the Sentinel missile.

The contract is part of the MK21A RV program for the Air Force through a sole source acquisition.

The work is expected to be completed by Oct. 20, 2039.

Construction on Sentinel project set to begin

Research, development, test and evaluation funds from the fiscal year 2024 budget totaling $26,612,031 were obligated at the time of the contract award, according to the Air Force.

The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Hill Air Force Base in Utah is the contracting agency.

The Air Force awarded a $108 million contract to Lockheed Martin for the technology maturation and risk reduction portion of the project in 2019.

Lockheed Martin worked with the Air Force and the National Nuclear Security Administration to develop the RVs with the capability to deliver the W87-1 warhead that will be on the Sentinel missiles, according to the company.

Daines, Tester visit local military bases; discuss Sentinel, Grey Wolf, cancer study

The Sentinel Program Integration office at Malmstrom Air Force base said that there will be two locations for the project in Montana. One of those will be in Great Falls, the other in Lewistown.

Both will be about 50-60 acres of land that has not yet been purchased or leased, with about 2,500 to 3,000 personnel, with their own dining facility, gym, recreation center and be completely contained within a fenced area. Northrop Grumman, the contractor, will provide security, patrol the area and control access, according to Malmstrom.

Sentinel program staff has spoken with the fire and police chiefs in Great Falls and Lewistown, as well as area tribes, about the locations.

Sentinel missile system completes another test

According to the Sentinel office, field work on the weapon system replacement won’t start until 2030 at the earliest.

The Air Force signed off on the environmental record of decision in May 2023 for Sentinel, the ground based strategic deterrent that will replace the Minuteman III missile system currently in use.

That means the construction phase of the multi-billion-dollar missile system can begin, according to the Air Force.

The signed decision means officials can move forward with permitting and construction for the project at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming later this year.

Project activities at Malmstrom are expected to begin in 2026 and at Minot in North Dakota in 2029.

Sentinel ICBM system completes flight tests

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 and Minot. According to the Department of Defense, there are 450 silos in the U.S. with 400 missiles deployed at any time.

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

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.

Air Force signs Sentinel agreement with tribes, preservation, government agencies

The record of decision details the findings of the Air Force’s analysis of environmental, natural resource and cultural considerations in the construction of the Sentinel project. The document identifies the selected course of action and how the Air Force intends to avoid, minimize or mitigate environmental impacts as much as possible for the life of the project, according to the Air Force.