USAF awards Northrop Grumman contract to develop next-gen ICBMs by default

USAF awards Northrop Grumman contract to develop next-gen ICBMs by default
next-gen ICBMs by default

The US Air Force (USAF) has announced that Northrop Grumman has been tasked to develop the US’s future Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) after Boeing dropped out from the process.

The competition deadline for proposals lapsed last Friday with Boeing pulling out, and Northrop Grumman submitting a proposal. With no other possible bidders, by default, Northrop Grumman appears to have secured the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) competition.

Boeing said to Air Force Technology: “Boeing is frustrated that we were unable to apply for a GBSD bid. For more than 60 years, we have been proud and privileged to contribute to the ICBM program.

Boeing continues to support a transition in the procurement strategy that would bring the best of business to this national priority and show value to the American taxpayer.’ According to Defense News, the contract will be awarded in the fourth quarter of 2020 with Captain Cara Bousie, a spokeswoman for USAF, saying:’ To date, the advanced technology maturation and risk reduction process has been completed.

“The Air Force must negotiate vigorously and efficiently with the sole source. We remain on track for a contract award in the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2020.” The total value of the contract to update the US’s ICBM arsenal could reach as high as $85bn over the programme’s lifetime. It is part of a broader push to upgrade and improve the nuclear triad by investing in warheads borne by strategic bombers, ICBMs and submarines.

The submission for the GBSD competition by Northrop Grumman will be formed as a collaboration between several companies including Aerojet Rocketdyne, BRPH, Clark Engineering, Collins Aerospace, General Dynamics, Honeywell, L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, Parsons and Textron Systems.

The U.S. ballistic missile deterrence modernization project began in 2017 when Northrop Grumman and Boeing were awarded three-year contracts for technology maturation and risk reduction worth more than $300bn. Boeing later complained that the expertise of Northrop Grumman in the industry meant that the contract was targeted at the client.

Boeing said the purchase of Orbital ATK by Northrop Grumman meant that the firm could sell a cheaper program and had previously indicated its intention not to compete for the competition.

The USAF released a request for proposals for the new ICBM system in July; at the time undersecretary of defence for acquisition and sustainment Ellen Lord said: “There is no margin to do another service life extension program on Minuteman III, because not only would it be more expensive than developing GBSD, but you would not have the resiliency in the capability because you would not have the modern equipment, you would not have the actual capabilities from a functional range point of view (or) warhead capability.”

Defence Insight Analysis

The new missiles will replace the BoeingLGM-30 G Minuteman III ICBM weapon system, which first entered service in the 1970s. Because of delivery in the late 2020s, according to Boeing, the latest missiles are projected to be operational by 2075.

The change follows the US Navy awarding a $300 million contract to General Dynamics Mission Systems on Monday to help the Trident II(D-5) Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines Fire Control System, Guided Missile Submarines Attack Weapon Control System, and Help Equipment Rework Facility support.

The submarine-based nuclear missiles make up one-third of the U.S. nuclear triad and are the cornerstone of the UK’s continuous-at-sea nuclear deterrent, borne on the submarine Vanguard-Class and its replacement of the Dreadnought-class.

Valerie Tricarico

Valerie Tricarico is a Security journalist specialized in C4ISR systems. She covers transnational security issues, such as international relations, terrorism, insurgency, state stability, organized crime, WMD proliferation and cybersecurity, as well as trends within OSINT analytics and news reporting on developments in the global intelligence community.