Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD)
Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) was selected by the U.S. Air Force 08 September 2020 to modernize the nation’s aging intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system under a $13.3 billion contract awarded today for the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program. The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center announced that the effort will span 8.5 years and include weapon system design, qualification, test and evaluation and nuclear certification. Upon successful completion of EMD, the Northrop Grumman team will begin producing and delivering a modern and fully integrated weapon system to meet the Air Force schedule of initial operational capability by 2029.
“Our nation is facing a rapidly evolving threat environment and protecting our citizens with a modern strategic deterrent capability has never been more critical,” said Kathy Warden, chairman, chief executive officer and president, Northrop Grumman. “With more than 65 years of technical leadership on every ICBM system, our nationwide team is honored and committed to continuing our partnership with the U.S. Air Force to deliver a safe, secure and effective system that will contribute to global stability for years to come.”
The EMD award followed a highly successful three-year technology maturation and risk reduction (TMRR) phase-one effort under the GBSD competition. The Northrop Grumman team has demonstrated innovation and agility by applying a digital engineering approach and has achieved all TMRR design review milestones on time and on cost.
Work on the program will be performed at the Northrop Grumman GBSD facilities in Roy and Promontory, Utah, as well as other key Northrop Grumman sites across the U.S. that include Huntsville and Montgomery, Alabama; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Bellevue, Nebraska; San Diego and Woodland Hills, California; Chandler, Arizona; Annapolis Junction, Maryland; and at nationwide team locations across the country. The Northrop Grumman GBSD team includes Aerojet Rocketdyne, Bechtel, Clark Construction, Collins Aerospace, General Dynamics, HDT Global, Honeywell, Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, Textron Systems, as well as hundreds of small and medium-sized companies from across the defense, engineering and construction industries. Overall, the GBSD program will involve over 10,000 people across the U.S. directly working on this vital national security program.
On 26 March 2021, leading US Democrats Ro Khanna and Ed Markey, Co-President of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), introduced into the US Congress the Investing in Cures Before Missiles (ICBM) Act. The Act would stop the further development of the Pentagon's new $93-96 billion ground-based strategic deterrent (GBSD) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and direct those savings towards development of a universal coronavirus vaccine.
"The United States should invest in a vaccine of mass prevention before another new land-based weapon of mass destruction," Senator Markey said. "The ICBM Act makes clear that we can begin to phase out the Cold War nuclear posture that risks accidental nuclear war while still deterring adversaries and assuring allies, and redirect those savings to the clear and present dangers posed by coronaviruses and other emerging and infectious diseases. The devastation sown by COVID-19 would pale in comparison to that of even a limited nuclear war. The ICBM Act signals that we intend to make the world safe from nuclear weapons and prioritize spending that saves lives, rather than ends them." USAF Chief Gen. C.Q. Brown suggested a scenario in an interview 30 March 2021 with Politico. "We can't stop our work on GBSD. I think we need to continue that. And there will probably be discussions over time [of] what that mix might be for the Triad as we go forward. I think it’s important that we actually do our design work. You've got to continue the design work to get to final design. And then, as you start building, the number might adjust and that may be a part of the dialogue."
Two Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction (TMRR) contracts were awarded in August 2017. Additionally, market research had not identified any additional sources capable of providing a low-technical-risk solution on the required timeline. As such, the United States Air Force intended to award a contract to either The Boeing Company (Boeing) or Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (NGAS) using competitive procedures. On 16 July 2019, the Air Force issued a request for bids to build about 400 of the missiles.
But on 23 July 2019 Boeing informed the Air Force it was withdrawing from the GBSD program. This is an important component of the country’s nuclear triad, which costs around $85 billion. The company initially said it would be backing out because Northrop Grumman had an unfair advantage. Northrop controls Orbital ATK, which supplies solid rocket motors. Northrop would have a price advantage, since it controlled the supply of rocket motors. Orbital ATK’s acquisition terms required Northrop to supply motors to its competitors on non-discriminatory terms when Northrop was also bidding for a project. Firewalls also had to be implemented to prevent any harm to competition. But Boeing asked the US Air Force to purchase the motors and supply them to both companies equally. However, the Air Force rejected this proposal.
The nation’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile System (ICBM) protected the nation against the possibility of nuclear attack by adversaries for six decades. Located on United States Air Force bases, missiles such as Atlas, Thor, Titan, Peacekeeper and Minuteman I, II and III have maintained a constant state of readiness as the ground-based leg of the nuclear triad.
The complex system had been updated and enhanced over the years, but was aging and due for replacement. That replacement was the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), a follow-on system designed to incorporate emerging strategic missile technologies to increase performance, security, nuclear safety and surety while reducing life cycle costs and modernizing the infrastructure. GBSD represented a recapitalization of the full weapons system.
The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Systems Directorate, Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Division (AFNWC/NIC) released a request for proposals (RFP) 29 July 2016 for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction (TMRR) contract. The official solicitation number was FA8219-16-R-GBSD. Proposals submitted by interested offerors in response to this solicitation were due not later than 12 October 2016. The government intended to award up to two Cost-Plus-Fixed-Fee contracts for TMRR. This effort was for RDT&E services with a period of performance of approximately 36 months. This effort was a full and open competition. The contract award(s) was expected in summer 2017.
The RFP, including unclassified/restricted documents were available in the GBSD Bidder's Library. Access to the Bidder's Library website was restricted to two employees, with SECRET clearances or higher, from each location of a company/organization to download and distribute as appropriate. Classified documents were included as attachments to the RFP and also in the Bidder's Library for reference.
The Request for Information (RFI) #1 for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent was released 23 January 2015. This RFI was intended to gather information and feedback from potential sources as a part of market research for a Minuteman III (MM III) replacement - the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) system.
The Government was preparing to acquire a replacement for the MM III intercontinental ballistic missile system (ICBM) that replaceed the entire flight system, retained the silo basing mode while recapitalizing the infrastructure, and implemented a new Weapon System Command and Control (WSC2) system. All modifications and replacements must be made with a focus towards minimizing associated maintenance/logistics impacts. The new weapon systemwould use the existing Mk12A and Mk21 Reentry Vehicles (RV) in the single and multiple RV configurations. The remainder of the missile stack would be replaced.
The government was exploring options to renovate the Launch Control Centers (LCC) and Launch Facilities (LF) to “like new” condition, undergo selective modernization and receive enhanced security features. The Government was also exploring options to reduce/streamline the current LCC/LF architecture. In addition, a new WSC2 system would be implemented to increase flexibility and reduce life cycle costs while maintaining stringent nuclear surety and cybersecurity requirements. Support Equipment may also be modified or replaced to accommodate the revised weapon system (e.g., C2, power, environmental, transportation and handling equipment). Due to the sensitive classified nature of this program, only U.S. contractors possessing a final U.S. Government clearance at the appropriate level would be considered.
GBSD affordability, flexibility, and adaptability over a 50 year lifecycle would require a number of system level features, including; the capacity to incorporate new technologies, manage complex infrastructure scheduling, accommodate flexible deployment strategies, and leverage system and program commonality/collaboration with other strategic platforms. To address this, the Government intended to implement a Modular Systems Architecture, within the constraints of Nuclear Surety. Modularity was seen as a key feature at all levels of the GBSD system architecture. The objective of the GBSD program strategy was to deliver a full weapon system capability that met or exceeded the requirements beginning delivery in the FY27 timeframe and completing deployment by the end of the FY34 timeframe. In developing the acquisition strategy, the government had identified criteria used to evaluate the various strategy options.
The government planned on promoting competition during the TMRR phase to award multiple contracts. Each contract would encompass the entire replacement effort. The TMRR phase would include a System Requirements Review (SRR), a System Design Review (SDR) and would conclude with a system Preliminary Design Review (PDR). The contract may also include risk reduction prototyping of high risk critical technology elements (e.g. accelerometers) and the requirement to bring forward multiple vendor technology designs to PDR. The government planned on awarding contract(s) during the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) after Milestone B approval. The government planned on down selecting after the predetermined developmental ground testing was completed.
ICBM MM III Facilities were built approximately 50+ years ago and in large part, no significant assessment had been conducted to validate the health and viability of the facilities necessary to meet mission needs, now through 2075. The Infrastructure Restoration and Modernization (security enhancements) was designed to rebaseline the launch and control facilities to MM III standards while modifying these sites to accommodate the GBSD Flight and WSC2 ground equipment. The anticipated scope of this effort was outlined in the GBSD Infrastructure Restoration and Modernization Task List provided as a separate attachment to this RFI. The GBSD program must identify methods to evaluate earth-buried facility infrastructure to determine replacement/refurbishment actions. A thorough investigation of the existing 50 year old MMIII launch and control facilities would be conducted in TMRR to ensure the restoration effort addresses both known and mission unknown issues. The Restoration and Modernization effort would be compatible to meet the current MMIII and GBSD requirements.
The ICBM Weapon System C2 (WSC2) architecture was increasingly difficult to sustain due to an industrial base which had advanced beyond the technologies and architecture currently employed. This hindered the efforts to modify or modernize the current WSC2 system seeking to employ new operational, maintenance and security concepts. The GBSD acquisition program would focus on approaches to modernize the messaging system, protocols, terminal equipment and operating system while addressing risk throughout all phases of implementation to a multilayer network. A modernized WSC2 and ground equipment upgrades would facilitate a flexible construct to monitor, direct and if authorized, execute forces. Networks would be expanded beyond the existing transport method in a distributed-type network that allocates weapon system data to appropriate users. In addition, new Integrated Command Centers would provide a single hub necessary to capture missile complex activities, critical weapon system status, and serve as a platform to execute forces.
In the lead-up to the Air Force Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Analysis of Alternatives, RAND was asked to examine and assess possible intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) alternatives against the current Minuteman III system.
"The Air Force successfully demonstrated its ability to extend the service life of the MM III at low cost and low program risk through service life extension programs (SLEPs). SLEPs may have to also be considered for supporting systems, such as silo refurbishment and communications. Sustaining MM III and gradual upgrades is a relatively inexpensive way to retain current intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities. Any all-new ICBM system will likely cost almost twice (and perhaps even three times) as much as incremental modernization and sustainment of the MM III system. Therefore, any argument for developing a wholly new alternative is either increased capability or changed threat."
The Air Force estimated in 2015 that the new ICBM program would cost $62.3 billion for RDT&E and production of as many as 400 missiles along with associated C3I and and infrastructure. Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman are all competing for the new ICBM.
The Air Force is planning to initiate an acquisition for the Mk21A RV for deployment on the Ground based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) weapon system. This program will enter the acquisition lifecycle at Milestone A (MS A) and conduct TMRR phase beginning in fiscal year 2019. The TMRR objectives are to reduce technical risk by maturing a preliminary design and demonstrating the technologies in a relevant environment.
The current notional plan for the Mk21A RV procurement includes the following:
- Reuse and modification of existing Mod 6 Mk21 aeroshells and forward sections
- Procurement of RV subsystems to include Nosetips, High Impact Transducer, Radio Frequency Subsystem, Spin Generation System, Rear Cover and Cables
- RV integration to include integrating AF components and the Department of Energy DOE/National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), W78 replacement warhead
- Integration of Mk21A/W78 replacement warhead to the GBSD weapon system
The Mk21A RV effort is critical to the successful execution of the ICBM SD Mission of delivering a safe, secure, responsive, on-time, and on-target nuclear deterrent force to the warfighter as the Nation’s Nucleus for ICBM development, acquisition, and sustainment. The government is expecting the TMRR phase may last approximately 3 years culminating in prototype flight demonstrations.
The GBSD Weapon System (GBSD WS) will be extremely complex, incorporating (a) air vehicle equipment, (b) command and launch, and (c) support equipment. In addition to integrating these systems, the system will require integration of software and hardware. The GBSD WS will also require facility upgrades, missile support base facilities, and test facilities. The GBSD WS must integrate all of these elements while complying with nuclear surety, nuclear safety, and cyber-security certification requirements. The GBSD EMD contract, with options for Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) and Full Rate Production (FRP), is expected to be performed from approximately 2020 to 2032, but strict deadlines for major program milestones exist throughout the duration of this contract’s anticipated period of performance.
Lockheed Martin Corp., King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, was awarded a $108,322,296 contract Oct. 16, 2019 for the Mk21A Reentry Vehicle (RV) program. This contract is to conduct technology maturation and risk reduction to provide a low technical risk and affordable RV capable of delivering the W87-1 warhead from the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Weapon System. Work will be performed at King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and other various locations as needed, and is expected to be completed by October 2022. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and one offer was received. Fiscal 2019 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $8,033,916 are being obligated at the time of award. The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the contracting activity (FA8219-20-C-0001).
The Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) land-based intercontinental ballistic missile system (ICBM) is expected to make its first flight in 2023, GBSD program manager Col. Jason Bartolomei disclosed on 14 June 2021. He foresaw the system reaching initial operational capability in 2029. Full operational capability will be 2036.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|