Air Force reviews preliminary design for future ICBM

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The Air Force reviewed Northrop Grumman’s preliminary design for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent in late April, advancing the program toward its next milestone and acquisition phase.

The GBSD intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) will modernize or replace the current Minuteman III ICBM’s systems for command and control, launch and flight.
Under the Defense Acquisition System, a PDR assesses the maturity of the preliminary design, as supported by requirement trades, prototyping, system reviews, etc.

“The PDR ensured Northrop Grumman’s design is sufficiently mature and ready to proceed into detailed design with acceptable risk, and will meet performance requirements within budget and on schedule,” said Col. Jason Bartolomei, GBSD system program manager. 

From April 28-30, the Air Force hosted the PDR meetings in a secure virtual environment at 19 locations across the United States, connecting over 25 government organizations. 

“Accomplishing this PDR is a huge success for the program, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bartolomei said. “The GBSD team overcame many challenges to accomplish such a large, complex PDR for an Acquisition Category 1-D program. Our classified network and digital engineering capabilities were key to this milestone, but secondary to the hard-work and commitment of the entire organization. We have an amazing workforce.”

 “GBSD is the most cost-effective option for maintaining a safe, secure and effective ground-based leg of the nuclear triad,” Bartolomei said.  “It will address capability gaps to meet warfighter requirements, maintaining the preeminence of America’s ground-based nuclear strategic deterrent.”

The GBSD program is currently in its Technology and Maturation Risk Reduction phase.  The Air Force anticipates receiving DoD approval to enter Milestone B later this year and awarding the contract for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase before the end of the fiscal year. 

The EMD phase will conclude with the development, test and evaluation of the GBSD system, before it proceeds into the Production and Deployment phase. Deployment of the new ICBM is planned to begin in the late 2020s and span about nine years.

Located at Hill AFB, Utah, the GBSD program office is part of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.

The center is headquartered at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, and is responsible for synchronizing all aspects of nuclear materiel management on behalf of Air Force Materiel Command, in direct support of Air Force Global Strike Command. The center has about 1,300 personnel, both military and civilian, assigned to 18 locations worldwide.