While the last Minuteman II was deployed in the early 1990s, which still run off 1970’s floppy disc era technology (See also HERE), Russia and China have both developed and deployed their advanced nuclear weapons. To make matters worse, if the GBSD’s being developed will be “phased in” during the 2030 decade, that is at least a 15 year window of opportunity for China and Russia to strike an ancient America with its 40 year old nukes — if their shelf life is even that long.
Hidden underground in steel-and-concrete silos across rural America, more than 400 intercontinental ballistic missiles point to the skies, poised for launch — and ready to obliterate cities across the world.
First designed in the 1960s at the height of the Cold War, the Minuteman nuclear weapons are starting to show their age, and replacement parts are difficult to find for the weapons designed in an analog age.
Also aging are their silos, many built in the 1950s and now rusting as water seeps through the decaying concrete.
Over the next 20 years, the US Air Force will switch out the entirety of its Minuteman III fleet with an as-yet-unnamed new missile known only as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD).
The Air Force estimates the cost of the GBSD, to be introduced late in the 2020s and phased in over the following decade, will be around $86 billion over the missiles’ life cycle of about 50 years.
Critics point to the Defense Department’s long history of projects going way over budget and say the cost of replacing the nukes and maintaining their launch facilities is not warranted, given the tactical threats the United States currently faces.
– America’s nuclear triad –
The Air Force issued requests for proposals in July for vendors to replace the Minuteman, named after colonial militiamen who eventually fought against the British in America’s Revolutionary War.
The prize will likely go to one of the three US defense giants: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing, and the new missile will be equipped with state-of-the-art electronics while being protected from any cyber threats.
America’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are just one leg of its “triad” — a three-pronged nuclear attack force also comprising submarines and bombers.
The Pentagon wants to replace or modernize all three legs of the triad, at a cost experts estimate will hit $1 trillion over the next 30 years.
“We flat can’t afford it. And from a priorities standpoint, it’s the wrong priority in the world that we face,” Democratic Congressman Adam Smith told a Washington forum last week, noting that the ICBM force is the part of the triad best suited for reduction.
The lawmaker said countries like China are able to boast a “spectacular deterrent” with far fewer nuclear weapons.
“What they have is enough to say ‘Don’t screw with us, or we will obliterate you,'” he said, adding that even if the United States were to enter a major nuclear fight, “we’re pretty much all toast anyways.”
While the United States and Russia signed a treaty in 2010 to reduce the numbers of nuclear launchers, Moscow is modernizing its own triad.
“The Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans are upgrading all of their systems,” an Air Force official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the nuclear program.
Another Air Force official said many of the vendors who first built or equipped the missile silos have long gone out of business, making it an arduous task to find replacement parts.
He said he’d heard anecdotes of colleagues scouring Ebay or other sites looking for antique components.
Full article: US Air Force set to replace intercontinental nuke arsenal (Spacewar)