Boeing and Northrop Grumman have been awarded a U.S. Air Force contract to develop a preliminary design for America’s next intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Boeing and Northrop Grumman each received risk-reduction contracts for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program, which will replace the Minuteman III ICBM.
In 2020, the Air Force will choose one company to develop the new land-based element of America’s nuclear triad. Missiles launched from submarines and aircraft are the other elements of the triad.
Though the award for the new Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) comes amid rising tensions with North Korea, the Air Force had asked the defense industry last summer for proposals to replace the aging ICBM system and its nuclear cruise missiles as the military moved ahead with a costly modernization of its aging atomic weapons systems.
“The Minuteman III is 45 years old. It is time to upgrade,” Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said in a statement on Monday.
Northrop Grumman was awarded $328 million, and Boeing $349 million over the three-year contract.
“Since the first Minuteman launch in 1961, the U.S. Air Force has relied on our technologies for a safe, secure and reliable ICBM force,” said Frank McCall, Boeing director of Strategic Deterrence Systems and GBSD program manager. “As the Air Force prepares to replace the Minuteman III, we will once again answer the call by drawing on the best of Boeing to deliver the capability, flexibility and affordability the mission requires.”
Northrop Grumman’s chief Wes Bush said in a statement, “We look forward to the opportunity to provide the nation with a modern strategic deterrent system that is secure, resilient and affordable.”
Modernization of the U.S. nuclear force was expected to cost more than $350 billion over the next decade. The United States plans to replace its aging systems, including bombs, nuclear bombers, missiles and submarines. Some analysts estimated the cost at $1 trillion over 30 years.