The U.S. Air Force and Navy are working to include more commonality in their next batch of nuclear tipped ballistic missiles, the head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) told reporters on Thursday.
“In terms of commonality, I have signed a letter along with [USN acquisition executive] Sean Stackley and [USAF acquisition executive] William LaPlante such that we do look at a common approach where we can associate with a future missile,” Adm Cecil Haney said, according to a report in Jane’s Defence Weekly.
Currently the Air Force fields the 1970s era LGM-30 Minute Man III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and is working toward extending the life of the standing force of 400 missiles into the 2030s. The Navy’s UGM-133A Trident II D5 were first fielded in the 1990s and will carry over to the Ohio-class Replacement Program nuclear ballistic missile submarine that will start construction in the 2020s.
“The Air Force is also modernizing the Minuteman missiles, replacing and upgrading their rocket motors, guidance systems, and other components, so that they can remain in the force through 2030,” read a March Congressional Research Service report.
“It is conducting studies and analysis on its plans to replace the missiles after 2030.”
The Minuteman III replacement — the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program — is undergoing an analysis of alternatives (AoA) ahead of a request for proposal that could be released to industry as early as this year, Haney said.
In tandem with the AoA, the Air Force and Navy are looking at commonality in the warhead as well as the unspecified components for the future strategic deterrent missiles.
A refresh of the Cold War-era nuclear forces has been an ongoing and expensive line item in the U.S. defense spending planning. Esitmates say the effort to aqdquetly modernize the nuclear deterrent triad of bombers, nuclear submarines and ICBMs could cost up to $1 trillion into the 2040s, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate.