The Pentagon is taking new steps to prepare a new arsenal of U.S.-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to become operational by the end of this decade, a long-awaited development intended to modernize the nuclear force well into the 2080s and beyond.
The new Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) missile program, long considered urgent by Pentagon weapons developers given the age and obsolescence of the existing Minuteman III ICBMs, recently completed its first major design review, a crucial step to its planned deployment in 2029. The review, according to a Northrop Grumman statement, included an analysis of the new weapon’s technical baseline, configuration elements, program data and user requirements.
The Air Force awarded Northrop the GBSD deal last year, a fast-tracked initiative now moving into a new phase of development to include full systems designs, nuclear certification and a series of tests and evaluations.
The weapons, which will disperse in missile silos spread across a vast, three-state expanse of land in Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana, will incrementally replace hundreds of 1960s-era Minuteman IIIs. The Minuteman IIIs, interestingly, have been upgraded repeatedly in recent years and are still considered viable and operational. For instance, the Air Force has recently test fired several technically improved Minuteman IIIs in what could be interpreted to demonstrate continued U.S. nuclear deterrence readiness in light of rapid Russian and Chinese nuclear weapons modernization.
It goes without saying that many technical details of relevance to the new GBSD are not and will not likely be