GBSD: The Biggest Operational Test Program Ever?

Kirtland AFB, N.M. The test and evaluation process for the Air Force’s next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile could be the biggest ever, even larger and more expensive than the F-35, an official here said. The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent is deemed a “very big program,” prompting the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center to ask for additional funding in the next Program Objective Memorandum cycle, between Fiscal 2018 and 2022. Kirtland is the home of multiple agencies overseeing the service’s nuclear development and testing of new weapons, including the Nuclear Weapons Center and the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center. The Air Force had previously requested additional funding for other “very big programs,” such as the F-35 and F-22. The testing process for GBSD is a big question mark going ahead, because there’s a lot of unknowns such as how many missiles will eventually be purchased and the extent of refurbishment of launch control centers. Also, the testing process for ballistic missiles is even more difficult because they “don’t land,” and instead crash into the sea and are destroyed in test launches. There will be extensive simulation and modeling needed to operationally test the GBSD. (See also: Ground-Based Question Mark from the July 2016 issue of Air Force Magazine.)