Boeing and Northrop Grumman have presented the US Air Force with design options for its next intercontinental ballistic missile program in what Boeing has described as a key milestone in the project to replace the Minuteman missiles.
The companies are both working on designs for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), which will replace the USA’s Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). According to reports Northrup Grumman has also submitted designs.
The submissions, also known as ‘trade studies’, are used by the US Air Force to develop the details of a request for proposals.
Frank McCall, vice president of Boeing Strategic Deterrence Systems, said, “We offered the Air Force cost and performance trades for a deterrent that will address emerging and future threats.
“By considering the various capabilities and opportunities for cost savings, the Air Force can prioritize system requirements as we progress toward the program’s next phase.”
The GBSD weapon system is planned to serve as a nuclear deterrent for the USA over a 50-year period for more than 50 years and will begin to replace the Minuteman III missiles in the late 2020s. The Minuteman was originally designed in the 1950s with the third version currently in use introduced in 1970.
GBSD development costs estimates vary from an original US Air Force estimate of US$62bn to US$140bn by some defense industry commentators.
The US Air Force awarded Boeing and Northrup Grumman US$349m and US$328m contracts respectively in August 2017 to develop the GBSD weapon system design over three years.
Boeing completed a system requirements review for GBSD in November 2017. A system functional review will occur later this year, and the company expects to present its preliminary design review to the Air Force in 2020.