Nuclear tipped missiles were first deployed on board US submarines at the height of the Cold War in the 1960s, to deter a Soviet first strike. The deterrence theorists argued that, unlike their land-based cousins, submarine-based nuclear weapons couldn’t be taken out by a surprise first strike, because the submarines were nearly impossible to locate and target. Which meant that Soviet leaders could not hope to destroy all of America’s nuclear weapons before they could be launched against Soviet territory. SLBM/FBM (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile/ Fleet Ballistic Missile) offered shorter ranges and less accuracy than their land-based ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) counterparts, but the advent of Trident C4 missiles began extending those ranges, and offering other improvements. The C4s were succeeded by larger Trident II D5 missiles, which added precision accuracy and more payload.
The year that the Trident II D5 ballistic missile was first deployed, 1990, saw the beginning of the end of the missile’s primary mission. Even as the Soviet Union began to implode, the D5’s performance improvements were making the Trident submarine force the new backbone of the USA’s nuclear deterrent – and of Britain’s as well. To ensure that this capability was maintained at peak readiness and safety, the US Navy undertook a program in 2002 to replace aging components of the Trident II D5 missile called the D5 Life Extension (LE) Program. This article covers D5 LE, as well as support and production contracts associated with the American and British Trident missile fleets.
Latest updates[?]: The US Space Force has announced another successful test launch of its Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The event occurred a day after North Korea paraded its indigenously-developed ICBMs, which analysts say could potentially challenge Washington’s defense systems. Equipped with a test reentry vehicle, the Minuteman III was fired from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on February 9.
LGM-30G Minuteman III
For 50 years, land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) have been part of the US primary strategic deterrence capability, the nuclear-armed triad that also includes submarine-launched ballistic missiles and long range heavy bombers.
Although the main target for the US deterrent – the Soviet Union – imploded in 1991, other threats – such as nuclear-armed rogue states and non-state actors – have emerged. To address these new threats, the US Air Force undertook a major ICBM modernization program.
To carry out this program, the USAF awarded a 15-year ICBM Prime Integration Contract (F42610-98-C-0001) in 1997 to a team led by Northrop Grumman. Since then, the team, which includes Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and ATK, has been carrying out a major modernization of the ICBM system to ensure its readiness.
Latest updates[?]: The US Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana awarded a $10 million contract to Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions Division for removable media cartridges. The deal supports the Trident Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN) program and includes Foreign Military Sales funding to the UK. The Trident II D5 is the latest generation of the US Navy's submarine-launched fleet ballistic missile. It is a three-stage, solid-propellant, inertial-guided ballistic missile developed by Lockheed Martin. The missile can carry multiple independently targeted reentry bodies for a maximum range of over 7,360 kilometers. A system upgrade is incorporating requirement changes to increase performance and address obsolescence. Curtiss-Wright will perform work in Fairborn, Ohio, and will finish by October 2024.
SSBN Vanguard Class
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The USA’s Ohio/ Henry M. Jackson Class and Britain’s Vanguard Class SSBNs (i.e. nuclear missile submarines) will begin experiencing age-related risks by the late 2010s, and military programs of this type can easily take 15-20 years from concept to fielding. The Common Missile Compartment (CMC) sub-program will help to define one of the next-generation SSBN’s most important constraints.
CMC aims to define the missile tubes and accompanying systems that would be used to launch new ballistic missiles, successors to the current Trident II/ D5 missile fleet used by the USA and Britain. Key options under consideration include a widened diameter for each tube from 2.21m – 3.04m, and the potential for flexibility beyond nuclear missiles.
Latest updates[?]: Israeli company Rafael dropped out of Switzerland’s $8 billion air defense tender. Rafael had initially offered its David’s Sling system. David’s Sling is an Israeli system developed with the United States that is designed to defend against short-range and theater ballistic missiles, large-caliber rockets, and cruise missiles. However, the Israeli Department of Defense did not give the company the necessary permit to go further in the tender. Reasons for this decision are unclear. Companies still participating in the tender are Raytheon with the Patriot system and Eurosam with the SAMP/T.
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David didn’t need high technology to defeat Goliath, just some stones and a sling. But in the modern world, David is getting some high-tech help from the likes of Raytheon and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, who are developing a missile defense system called David’s Sling Weapon System (DSWS).
The DSWS is a joint short-range ballistic missile defense program between the US Missile Defense Agency and the Israel Missile Defense Organization. The system is designed to defeat short-range ballistic missiles, large-caliber rockets and cruise missiles in their terminal phase of flight.
Raytheon received 2 contracts from Rafael worth more than $100 million to build DSWS components.
Latest updates[?]: Northrop Grumman has received a $332 million modification to an existing contract for work at the Joint National Center Research and Development for the Missile Defense Agency and the Department of Defense. Under the terms of the agreement, work to be carried out includes the integration of Ballistic Missile Defense System (BDMS) and testing programs for the program, as well as the provision of logistical services, wargame and readiness exercises, and the development of doctrine, as well as information technology support for the Chief Information Officer for the BDMS. The additional DoD funding will increase the funding maximum from $3.85 billion to $4.18 billion, and may extend task orders until May 2018.
Monitors went black
C2BMC puts the “system” in the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) System. At least that’s how the US Missile Defense Agency describes the Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) element. Basically, C2BMC synchronizes individual missile defense systems, sensors, and operators, which is essential to the layered missile defense approach the agency is working to develop. Since no one system is foolproof, layered system is designed to destroy enemy ballistic missiles by tracking and engaging them in all phases of flight, from boost, mid-course, and terminal phases of ballistic missiles. Tying all that together is a real challenge, since these systems weren’t all designed from the outset to operate together.
The Russian Ministry of Defense plans to replace nearly half of the Russian Army’s hardware by 2015, according to Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. Ivanov said military spending over the next 8 years was planned at $189 billion, and that official Russian military spending had quadrupled from 2001 to reach $31 billion this year.
Ivanov said weapons purchases would include “17 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 4 military spacecraft with the same number of launch rockets for them,” as well as new bombers, ships, and other heavy equipment. The ICBMs are believed to be the new SS-27 Topol-M, and other plans reportedly include 50 new bombers, 31 ships of varying sizes, and fully re-arming 40 tank, 97 infantry and 50 parachute battalions. Some outside observers doubt Russia’s ability to fulfill these plans, however, given a closed military procurement system, that’s very resistant to scrutiny, in a country with a record of corruption. See Defense-Aerospace: “Russia to Spend $189bn on Weapons by 2015” | “Russia’s Defense Minister Unveils Plans to Overhaul Military.”
January 19/17: Russia has test-fired a Topol-M ICBM, one of the first ballistic missiles to be developed after the fall of the Soviet Union. Capable of being deployed from missile silos or APU launchers mounted on the 16-wheeled MZKT-79221 universal transporter-erector-launcher, the test was carried out to confirm the weapon’s stability. The weapon’s developers claim their product is able to bypass any current or planned US missile defense system, and can make evasive maneuvers to avoid missile interceptors during flight.
Northrop Grumman Space and Mission Systems of Clearfield, UT received a contract modification for $176.2 million, exercising the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Propulsion Replacement Program’s (PRP) final full rate production (year 7) option. NGC tends to sub-contract large portions of this work to ATK Thiokol; the Minuteman III PRP began in 1998 as a Joint Venture between ATK and Pratt & Whitney, but all work content was transitioned to ATK in the 2003-2004 timeframe following a contract restructure. DID has covered related contracts in November 2006 ($222.5 million), March 2006 ($541 million) and January 2006 ($225.2 million). Presumably, the ICBMs’ Environmental Protection Agency certification has been taken care of by now.
The purpose of PRP is to ensure MM Flight Reliability and supportability of the USA’s LGM-30G Minuteman III nuclear ICBMs through 2020 by correcting identified mission threatening degradations, sustaining existing reliability, and supporting Minuteman Life Extension Efforts. America chose to retire its larger, newer, and more capable MX Peacekeeper missiles in 2005, in compliance with arms control treaties it has signed. This contract action will purchase the remaining 56 Minuteman III booster sets, making a total of 601 sets acquired during the PRP. At this time, $51.6 million has been obligated. The 526th ICBM Systems Wing at Hill Air Force Base, UT holds the contract (F42310-98-C-0001). See also Northrop Grumman release.
September 9/16: The DoD’s chief weapons buyer has estimated that a new intercontinental ballistic missile to replace the Minuteman III will cost at least $85 billion to develop and field. In a memo to USAF Secretary Deborah James, Frank Kendall cited figures generated by the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, which are about 36% more than a preliminary estimate by the service. The figure will be reassessed in “March 2018 once missile designs are more advanced, technical risks are reduced and the service has a better understanding of overall costs.”
August 18/16: The Pentagon and the USAF have run into issues over the latter’s plan to replace the LGM-30G intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Concern over cost estimates given the USAF have been expressed by Washington, who found that the flying branch’s figure differs greatly from that of the office of independent cost assessment. The disparity stems from the fact that the US hasn’t built new ICBMs in decades, and nuclear spending over the next 30 years could exceed $1 trillion.
January 26/16: An investigation into a “mishap” involving a Minuteman III ICBM causing $1.8 million worth of damage has been released. The heavily redacted report cited crew inexperience as the main factor, after they were sent to fix an error that arose during a routine diagnostic test, causing damage to the missile after failure to follow procedures. While investigators said they found four contributing factors to the cause of the incident, only two could be found in the report itself. The majority of the blame seems to rest with the crew leader in charge of the troubleshooting, who failed to first follow technical guidance, and then lacked the the adequate proficiency level to anticipate the consequences of his actions during the incident. The report follows the recent debates over the spending of billions of dollars on upgrading and maintaining these strategic missiles which are coming to be seen as an antiquated defense mechanism.
Interim design review for IBCS completed. (April 26/10)
The US Army awarded a Northrop Grumman-led team a $577 million, 5-year, cost-plus-incentive-fee/ cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to develop the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS).
Northrop Grumman beat out a team led by Raytheon. The two teams competed in the preliminary design phase of the program.
IBCS is intended to transform the Army’s disparate air and missile defense systems — each with independent sensing, command-and-control and launching capabilities — into an integrated defense capability. The system will enable the Army to manages all of its air and missile defense systems from 1 command-and-control center.
Northrop Grumman’s winning IBCS design is based on a non-proprietary, open architecture approach…
Latest updates[?]: Finland has approved the purchase of missiles for its 22 recently upgraded Lockheed Martin M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRSs). 90 M31A1 Unitary Missiles and 150 M30A1 Alternative Warhead Missiles are expected to be delivered at a cost of $78.4 million. The Finnish Ministry of Defense had initially set a maximum budget of $150 million for the acquisition when their procurement intentions were made known last November. Deliveries of the warheads are expected to be completed by 2018. Finland, along with other Baltic and Nordic allies, are in the midst of major missile defense and equipment acquisitions, as fears regarding Russia's military capabilities continue to be reported. NATO recently announced that the Russian air force had successfully simulated a mock nuclear attack of Swedish installations during war games in 2013.
Finland is busy modernizing its forces within its limited budgets, from air defense upgrades to new stealthy cruise missiles and upgrades for its F/A-18 Hornet fighters. In June 2012, the Finns convinced the US State Department to issue its formal request to buy long-range ATACMS missiles, which are able to work with Finland’s newly-upgraded M270 tracked MLRS rocket launchers.
American 227mm MLRS systems offer shorter reach than Russia’s 300mm SMERCH-M rocket launchers, for now. By replacing a box of 6 MLRS rockets with a single Army TACMS missile, however, the equation changes dramatically.
Charles Edelstenne plans to retire from Dassault Aviation next month as he is reaching the statutory age limit. His successor as CEO should be known within days, though it is not clear whether that person will come from within or outside of the company. L’Usine Nouvelle [in French].
During a hearing at the French Assemblée Nationale’s defense committee, Edelstenne mentioned a potential change in corporate governance at Thales, where CEO Luc Vigneron is in a protracted spat with unions. Dassault Aviation is the second largest shareholder in Thales, just behind the French state. Reuters | L’Usine Nouvelle [both in French].
Since EADS confirmed on Monday that talks in the media of a new shareholder structure are founded, reports of what that would look like have kept coming. Bloomberg | Reuters.