U.S. Air Force
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Minuteman III ICBM Survives Beyond 65 Years

May 10, 2021
Northrop Grumman snares a 18.5-year contract worth up to $2.3 billion to keep the U.S. Air Force's Minuteman III ICBMs battle-ready until the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent System is primed to take over.

The U.S. Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Corrine, UT, with a cost-plus-award-fee contract with a $2.3-billion ceiling over an 18.5-year ordering period for engineering support and services for the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) propulsion system. The contract helps to keep the software and hardware of the Minuteman III weapon system operational even as technology surpasses it. As part of the services, Northrop Grumman will perform materials and component testing and analysis, including evaluation of aging effects on system performance. Work will be performed primarily in Corrine and Magna, UT with services expected to be completed by November 2040.

The aging LGM-30 Minuteman III ICBM system (see the figure) was developed as a means of delivering nuclear-weapons ordnance over intercontinental distances. It has been in service for over 65 years with several intended replacements, including the Peacekeeper integration beginning in 1978, but has remained a reliable weapons system over that time. It will eventually be replaced by the U.S. Air Force’s Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) system, for which Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor. With its modular and adaptable design, the GBSD system is expected to be the intercontinental weapons system for current and emerging threats through 2075.         

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