Nuclear C3 Upgrade Tops Modernization Priority List

Updating the command, control, and communications (NC3) systems that operate the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal is “my biggest concern,” US Strategic Command boss Gen. John Hyten told Congress Wednesday. “The submarine, the bomber, LRSO, GBSD [Ground Based Strategic Deterrent]—I see all those coming together,” Hyten told the House Armed Services Committee. But the nuclear command and control architecture is “very, very hard to recapitalize” because the system is “robust, resilient, and ancient,” said Hyten. Parts of the NC3 date from the 1960s and have gone through “multiple life cycle extensions.” Hyten used the Minuteman III modernization as an example. Replacing “the missile to me is the easiest part of the structure” of the ICBM, he said. “It is the infrastructure that is around the missile that will be the challenge.” Modernizing NC3, however, is about more than just ICBMs. The systems also make use of satellite constellations to enable secure communications with bombers and command and control aircraft. “Any delay, deferment, or cancellation of NC3 modernization will create a capability gap potentially degrading the President’s ability to respond appropriately to a strategic threat,” according to Hyten’s prepared statement.