The Story Behind the 50-ICBM Cut

As it turns out, those 50 Minuteman III ICBMs being cut from the Air Force’s arsenal are needed—but not as operational nuclear missiles. The Air Force needs them to replace missiles used in routine ICBM operational test launches. It will also create some flexibility with warheads, said a senior defense official March 7. DOD was “running out” of Minuteman spares, the official said, adding that US Strategic Command wants to maintain the option of outfitting the land-based ICBMs with multiple warheads. Current US policy calls for each ICBM to carry a single warhead. If a decision were made to re-MIRV the missiles in the future, retiring 50 Minutemen provides additional warheads that could be returned to the remainder of the force.