Lockheed Picks Site for ICBM Replacement Bid

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, launches during an operational test at 11:01 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Kyla Gifford)An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, launches during an operational test at 11:01 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Kyla Gifford)

Lockheed Martin Corp. planned to set up headquarters at Hill Air Force Base in Utah for its team aiming to win the competition against Northrop Grumman Corp. and Boeing Co. for a major Air Force contract to replace the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, or ICBM, fleet.

In a press release and at a Thursday news conference in Utah, Lockheed said its program management office for the Minuteman replacement, now called the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, will be at a new development in the Falcon Hill Aerospace Research Park at Hill.

Lockheed was to be the first tenant in a new building to be constructed by Woodbury Corp. in the 550-acre commercial property. John Karas, Lockheed’s vice president and GBSD program manager, said the defense firm would initially hire about 25 employees for the location but will expand if it wins the contract.

“Our GBSD program management team will work and live in Utah because the Hill Air Force Base community matters to the ICBM mission,” Karas said. “We look forward to moving into this state-of-the art facility and building partnerships across the state to deliver a capable, low-risk GBSD solution that meets all mission requirements.”

Lockheed has already brought on board a number of sub-contractors for various systems:  General Dynamics Corp. for weapon system command and control;  Draper Laboratories for guidance, navigation and control;  Moog for thrust vector control systems;  Bechtel for launch facility expertise; Orbital-ATK Ubc, for propulsion subsystems; and Aerojet Rocketdyne for propulsion subsystems.

Currently, about 500 aging Minuteman missiles, each with a Multiple Independently Targeted Re-entry Vehicle, or MITRV, warhead, are deployed in silos at four bases in the north-central United States: Minot Air Force Base and Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota;  Malmstrom AFB in Montana; and F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming.

The Air Force expects to field an initial replacement system by the late 2020s for about $50 billion but Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has suggested that the cost estimate was likely a floor and not a ceiling.

“The magnitude of this type of ICBM work — we have not collectively done it for more than 40 years,” James said at a Pentagon briefing in August. “And so there is a level of complexity that has to be worked through.”

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Richard Sisk
Richard Sisk is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.