Minuteman Extended, and Beyond

The service is still gathering information for a “road map” on further upgrades and possible new investment for the Minuteman III ICBM to extend the fleet to 2030, the commander of 20th Air Force said during a Capitol Hill speech Friday morning. “The questions have all been asked and now we’re waiting for some of the answers to come in,” Maj. Gen. Roger Burg said when asked about the status of the Congressional-backed initiative to extend the missile fleet 10 years beyond its currently projected life expectancy of 2020. Congress asked the question three years ago, and the Air Force still owes an answer on what it would take, acknowledged Burg. He said that the service still has to conduct some “aging and surveillance analysis” on the fleet to predict what it will look like anywhere from five to 15 years in the future. “That’s what this roadmap is trying to answer,” Burg said and added: “We’ll probably require some reinvestment. We don’t know right now if it’s going to be some component in a guidance set, or a stage on a booster, or some part of the ground support equipment.” However, he emphasized that the roadmap is not intended to determine what a follow on system will look like. Several efforts are underway now to conduct experiments on what a successor global strike capability might entail, he said. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking to test some new technology this summer involving precision conventional global strike capabilities that could strike up to 6,000 miles in the course of 40 to 50 minutes. “That may be a future capability,” Burg said.