The U.S. Air Force released July 29 a request for proposals for its Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, or GBSD, intercontinental ballistic missile weapon system program. Up to two contract awards are expected in 4th quarter fiscal year 2017.
GBSD is the follow-on to the aging LGM-30 Minuteman III ICBM. The launch systems and weapon system C2 physical infrastructure being used for MMIII today first became operational with the Minuteman I ICBM system in the mid-1960s. While certain components and subsystems have been upgraded over the years, including a transition to Minuteman III configuration in the 1970s, most of the fundamental infrastructure in use today is original and has supported more than 50 years of continuous operation. The Minuteman III flight systems in use today were fielded in the late 1990s and early 2000s with an intended 20 year lifespan. The current Minuteman III system will face increased operational and sustainment challenges until it can be replaced.
The Air Force is focused on developing and delivering an integrated weapon system, including launch and C2 segments. The new GBSD weapon system will meet existing national requirements, while having the adaptability and flexibility to affordably address changing technology and threat environments through 2075. Deployment is projected to begin in the late 2020s.
“The Minuteman III will have a difficult time surviving in the active anti-access, area denial environment that we will be dealing with in the 2030 and beyond time period,” said Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, Barksdale AFB, La., to the House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee in March.
“This request for proposals is the next step to ensuring the nation’s ICBM leg of the nuclear triad remains safe, secure and effective” said Maj. Gen. Scott Jansson, commander of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center and Air Force Program Executive Officer for Strategic Systems.
Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, supports the GBSD to “ensure an adversary cannot launch a comprehensive counterforce attack on the United States by striking only a few targets,” during his keynote speech at a Strategic Deterrent panel at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in January 2016.
Plus a request for proposal for nuclear air-launched cruise missile replacement
The Air Force also released July 29, 2016, a request for proposals to industry for its Long Range Standoff (LRSO) nuclear cruise missile program; up to two contract awards are expected in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2017.
The LRSO weapon will be developed to replace the aging AGM-86B air-launched cruise missile. The AGM-86B was fielded in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life. The current ALCM remains safe, secure and effective. It is facing increasing sustainment and operational challenges against evolving threats.
LRSO’s range, survivability, reliability and credibility are key elements of the air-delivered leg of the U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces deterrent. Nuclear-capable bombers armed with standoff missiles provide the nuclear triad a clear, visible and tailorable deterrent effect, and deny geographic sanctuaries to any potential adversary. In addition, LRSO will provide a rapid and flexible hedge against changes in the strategic environment.
“The LRSO will be a reliable, flexible, long-ranging, and survivable weapon system to complement the nuclear triad,” Gen. Robin Rand, the Air Force Global Strike Command commander, told the Senate Armed Forces Committee in February.
“LRSO will ensure the bomber force can continue to hold high-value targets at risk in an evolving threat environment, to include targets within an area-denial environment,” he added.
The Air Force plans to start fielding LRSO by 2030.
“Maintaining an air-delivered standoff and direct attack capability is vital to meeting our strategic and extended deterrence commitments and denying geographic sanctuaries to potential adversaries,” Adm. Cecil Haney, the U.S. Strategic Command commander, told the House Armed Services Committee in February. “The new LRSO is needed to replace the aging (ALCM), which has far exceeded its originally planned service life, is being sustained through a series of service life extension programs, and is required to support our B-52 (Stratofortress) bomber fleet.”
The proposal identifies the contract requirements and proposal instructions for the LRSO’s technology maturation and risk reduction phase. After receipt of industry proposals, the Air Force will conduct a source selection and award contracts to up to two prime contractors. The prime contractors will execute a 54-month effort to complete a preliminary design with demonstrated reliability and manufacturability, which will be followed by a competitive down-select to a single contractor.
The LRSO weapon system will be a cost-effective force multiplier for B-52, B-2 Spirit and B-21 aircraft to credibly deter adversaries and assure U.S. allies of its deterrent capabilities.
“LRSO is a critical element of the United States’ nuclear deterrence strategy,” said Maj. Gen. Scott Jansson, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center commander and Air Force program executive officer for strategic systems. “Releasing this solicitation is a critical step toward affordably recapitalizing the aging air leg of the nuclear triad.”
The AFNWC is responsible for synchronizing all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of Air Force Materiel Command in direct support of AFGSC. Headquartered at Kirtland Air Force Base. N.M., the center has about 1,000 personnel assigned at 18 locations worldwide.