Alternatives Analysis Nears for Minuteman Replacement

The Air Force in July plans to commence the analysis of alternatives for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, the system meant to succeed the nation’s nuclear-tipped Minuteman III missiles, according to Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, head of Air Force Global Strike Command. “The study is about to begin. It will take about a year and we’ll report out next year,” Kowalski told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces panel on April 17. Kowalski said he’s “confident” Minuteman missiles can remain viable out to 2030 with the upgrade programs already in place or planned in coming years, such as replacing the propulsion and fitting a new guidance set. After that, the Air Force intends to transition to the GBSD. Kowalski said the Air Force plans “to dovetail” any new subsystems added to Minuteman missiles on to the GBSD “so that we’re not paying for the same thing twice with the follow-on.” Last October, the Air Force Chief of Staff approved the GBSD capabilities-based assessment that laid the foundation for the upcoming analysis, said Kowalski. “We’re comfortable that we have a very sound and structured plan to go forward with this analysis” and identify the GBSD’s attributes, he said. (Kowalski’s written testimony) (See also Input Sought on Future ICBM Concepts.)