Defense

October 26, 2012

Life extension programs modernize ICBMs

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Carla Pampe
Barksdale AFB, La.
af-icbm3
Air Force photograph by SSgt. Eydie Sakura SrA. Derek Baker uses a hand-held controller to lower the 341st Missile Wing's 150th Minuteman III solid-propellant replacement booster into launch facility Echo-08 Aug. 18, 2009. Baker is a 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron missile handling technician. The Propulsion Replacement Program extends the service live of the missile through 2020. The first Minuteman III replacement booster was delivered in April 2001.

Fifty years ago, officials deployed the first Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles to the missile fields in support of the strategic deterrence mission. Five decades later, these missiles are still in place, providing safe, secure and effective strategic nuclear deterrence.

Since it first deployed, a number of state-of-the-art improvements and modernization programs have helped the Minuteman system continue its deterrence mission with improved reliability that supports the missile’s remarkable 99 percent alert rate. Air Force Global Strike Command officials continue to modernize the weapon system through a series of extensive Minuteman III Life Extension Programs.

Nearly the entire missile has been refurbished, including the flight controls and propellant in all three stages, the guidance system and the Propulsion System Rocket Engine.

“We are checking and balancing everything, but they are basically new missiles except for the shell,” said Michael Knipp, ICBM program analyst. “Over the last decade we’ve done more than $7 billion worth of upgrades to 450 missiles.”

In addition to the missile itself, a number of upgrades to the Minuteman III ground systems have been made. Those include upgrade to various electronic, cryptographic and security systems, Knipp said.

The last of the Life Extension Programs that will take the platform through the year 2020 are scheduled to be completed in 2015.




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