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US Air Force Seeks New ICBM Launch System for Airborne Command Center

© Flickr / Airman MagazineTwo large screens light up the alternate command and control center in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado
Two large screens light up the alternate command and control center in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado - Sputnik International
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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The US Air Force has earmarked $81 million to design and prototype a system to launch intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles from an airborne command center that would presumably survive an enemy nuclear attack, the defense and aerospace contractor Lockheed Martin announced in a press release.

"The US Air Force recently awarded Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) an $81 million Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction (TMRR) contract to provide a design and functional prototype to replace the aging Airborne Launch Control System aboard the E-6B Mercury Airborne Command Post," the release said on Wednesday.

Dec. 4, 1989 file photo shows the launch of a Trident II, D-5 missile from the submerged USS Tennessee submarine in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. As of mid-2010, 12 operational U.S. nuclear-missile submarines carry a total of 288 Trident missiles. A movement is growing worldwide to abolish nuclear weapons, encouraged by President Barack Obama's endorsement of that goal. But realists argue that more stability and peace must first be achieved in the world. - Sputnik International
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The $81 million effort is a key part of US nuclear modernization efforts, and will link to a future Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent missile system, which is planned to begin replacing Minuteman III missiles in the late 2020s, the release said.

"The Airborne Launch Control System-Replacement (ALCS-R) program will provide a survivable alternate launch capability for the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs)," it said. "Slated for fielding by 2024, ALCS-R will continue the ALCS's 50 year legacy of providing assured nuclear deterrence."

The ALCS plans include upgraded radios, launch control systems and secure cryptographic devices that can be upgraded through 2075, the release said.

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