Seeking “Intelligent Commonality” in New Ballistic Missiles

Faced with similar requirements to modernize their aging strategic ballistic missiles, the Air Force and Navy are working on an “intelligent commonality” program to find ways to reduce the cost of replacements for the land- and sea-based nuclear-armed missiles, said Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, director of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs, on Sept. 17. The silo-based Minuteman III and the submarine-launched Trident D5 both use decades-old technology and the services are struggling to keep them operating as parts of the nuclear deterrent triad, Benedict said. But both will have to be replaced by new missiles, he added. With an expected high cost for new missile and constrained budgets, “we need to do something different, smarter.” The two services “have an obligation to present to national leaders ways to make that modernization affordable,” Benedict said at a conference sponsored by Task Force 21, the Minot, N.D., chamber of commerce, and AFA. Benedict said members of his staff are working with similar Air Force personnel to study “what components can be made common” in the future missiles. The staffs have been told that any replacement missiles must fit in the existing silos and submarine missile tubes without major adjustments, he said.