The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded a $3.86 billion contract to Northrop Grumman Systems for Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) ground subsystem support.
The project is expected to be complete by July 6, 2039. It includes “sustaining engineering, maintenance engineering, test and assessment, modification of systems and equipment, software maintenance, developmental engineering, production engineering, repair and procurement,” according to the contract.
The work will take place at seven US Air Force Bases, including Hill AFB, Utah; Vandenberg AFB, California; Malmstrom AFB, Montana; Minot AFB, North Dakota; FE Warren AFB, Wyoming; and Offutt AFB, Nebraska.
The Boeing Minuteman III was first launched in 1968. A total of 550 of the ICBMs were deployed throughout the country. By 2017, the air force had reduced the number of missiles to 400.
Missile and Its Replacement
The missile is part of the United States Strategic Command. As the only land-based ICBM in service, the weapon represents the ground-based leg of the US nuclear triad, which includes the Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile and nuclear weapons carried by long-range strategic bombers.
The three-stage, solid-propellant nuclear weapon has a range of over 6,000 miles (9,656 kilometers) and a top speed of over 15,000 miles (24,140 kilometers) per hour.
In 2020, the US Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $13.3 billion contract to develop a new nuclear missile, the US Air Force Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, to replace the Minuteman III starting in 2029.