Northrop Grumman announced on Tuesday that the Virginia-based aerospace and defense contractor had been selected as the sole company to modernize the Air Force’s ICBM system under the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program.
The new missiles will replace the rapidly aging Minuteman III ICBMs, which have served as the silo-based arm of the US nuclear triad since the 1970s.
The contractor detailed that the effort, according to the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, “will span 8.5 years and include weapon system design, qualification, test and evaluation and evaluation and nuclear certification.”
Successful completion of the EMD phase will allow the Northrop Grumman team to begin producing and delivering “a modern and fully integrated weapon system” that will meet the Air Force’s schedule of initial operational capability by 2029.
“Our nation is facing a rapidly evolving threat environment and protecting our citizens with a modern strategic deterrent capability has never been more critical,” Kathy Warden, Northrop Grumman’s president, chief executive officer and chair, said in the company’s September 8 release.
“With more than 65 years of technical leadership on every ICBM system, our nationwide team is honored and committed to continuing our partnership with the US Air Force to deliver a safe, secure and effective system that will contribute to global stability for years to come.”
This comes months after Boeing, the only competitor to Northrop Grumman for the contract, ceased working on the program due to a halt in the flow of funds under the Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction contract.
“Boeing is disappointed in the Air Force’s decision to not allot additional funding for the GBSD Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction (TMRR) contract,” Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher said in October 2019.
“The Boeing team has delivered substantial value under the contract, achieved all contract milestones on time and received strong performance feedback from the Air Force.”
Nevertheless, Brig. Gen. Anthony Genatempo, the service’s program executive officer for strategic systems, told Defense News that the new Northrop Grumman contract “provides the best overall value to the warfighter and taxpayers.”
“The GBSD program is leveraging technologies to reduce the program’s technical risk and ensure time-certain delivery to meet the warfighter’s need,” he said.
“Its acquisition strategy focuses on mature technologies, smart commonality, modular designs, and maintaining the Air Force’s ability to leverage competition throughout the weapon system’s lifecycle to ensure it will effectively adapt to evolving environments.”