NATIONAL Harbor, Md. — “We are in a crazy world” of proliferating nuclear threats that will persist for generations to come and require the U.S. to invest $80 billion to $100 billion in new ICBMs to deter adversaries, Air Force Gen. Robin Rand said Monday.
“There are bad characters around the world” who “need to know we’re ready,” Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said during a strategic deterrence panel at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber convention.
New Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles that will eventually replace the current arsenal of about 400 aging Minuteman III missiles would help “keep the world from spinning completely off its axis,” he said.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander of the 20th Air Force in Global Strike Command, said, “We’re ready to do business with the weapons systems on alert right now,” but GBSD would bring new deterrent capabilities to the land-based component of the nation’s nuclear triad of missiles, bombers, and submarines.
The deterrent value of the ground-based leg of the nuclear triad was questioned in 2009 when the Obama administration engaged in “a very serious discussion about eliminating the ICBM force,” retired Maj. Gen. Roger Burg, a former commander of the 20th Air Force, said in a panel discussion.
However, the Obama administration eventually “decided to retain the ICBM force,” said Burg, now president of O’Malley Consulting.
The Minuteman III missiles still provide an effective deterrent but they are not cost effective to maintain, Cotton said. Cost estimates on the GBSD range from $80 billion to $100 billion to give the U.S. a new ground-based leg of the triad through 2075.
Replacing the Minuteman III
“We are moving forward with modernization of the ground-based leg of the nuclear triad,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in August.
“Our missiles were built in the 1970s. Things just wear out, and it becomes more expensive to maintain them than to replace them. We need to cost-effectively modernize,” she said.
“As others have stated, the only thing more expensive than deterrence is fighting a war. The Minuteman III is 45 years old. It is time to upgrade,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told defense reporters in August.
In the panel discussion Monday, Carol Erikson, vice president for GBSD at Northrop Grumman, said the firm is committed to “providing the ultimate top cover for the nation. We’re definitely ready to support GBSD.”
In addition to the GBSD, the Air Force is expected to come to a decision soon on the projected Long Range Standoff Weapon, or LRSO — a nuclear-capable cruise missile to be launched from aircraft such as the B-52 Stratofortress.
The LRSO program would replace the AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile, and a contract is expected to be announced later this year.
Full article: US Needs 400 New Nuclear ICBMs to Deter ‘Crazy World’: General (DefenseTech)