What is Ground Based Strategic Deterrent?

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The U.S. Air Force has proposed to replace the aging Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with its Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). The GBSD represents the modernization of the land-based leg of the U.S. nuclear triad.

The Air Force’s Proposed Action At A Glance

  • GBSD ICBMs would replace the 400 Minuteman III ICBMs in service for more than 50 years in the missile fields at F.E. Warren Air Force Base (AFB), WY; Malmstrom AFB, MT; and Minot AFB, ND.

  • Associated GBSD maintenance, training, storage, testing, and support actions would occur at Hill AFB, UT; Utah Test and Training Range, UT; Camp Guernsey, WY; and Camp Navajo, AZ.

  • The existing Minuteman III ICBM launch facilities (LFs), missile alert facilities (MAFs), communication systems, infrastructure, and technologies would be modernized and replaced as necessary to support the GBSD system.

  • Minuteman III ICBMs would be decommissioned, which requires demilitarization and disposal activities involving destruction of all Minuteman III weapon systems.

  • The proposed GBSD Project would not include generating or disposing of nuclear material.

  • The number of land-based nuclear missiles in the continental United States would remain unchanged.

  • LFs are cylindrical underground structures for storing and launching ICBMs.

  • MAFs are facilities with underground launch control centers that monitor and control the LFs.

An excavator digging a trench for utility installation.
An excavator digging a trench for utility installation.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Energy

  • The Department of Defense (DoD) develops, deploys, and operates the missiles and aircraft that deliver nuclear warheads.

  • The Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration oversee the research, development, testing, and acquisition programs that produce, maintain, and sustain the nuclear warheads.

  • The GBSD ICBM is being designed to have the same use requirements for the DOE warheads as are carried on the Minuteman III ICBM.

The Minuteman III ICBM to be Replaced by the GBSD Weapon System

  • Although certain components and subsystems have been upgraded since the Minuteman III ICBM system first became operational in the early 1970s, most of the system’s fundamental infrastructure still uses the original equipment.

  • The United States’ nuclear triad is a three-pronged military force structure that consists of land-based ICBMs, submarine launched ballistic missile-armed submarines, and strategic aircraft with nuclear weapon deployment capabilities.

  • The nuclear triad remains robust, flexible, resilient, and ready, but it must be modernized to maintain a credible deterrent against current and emerging threats.

  • The GBSD system is the most cost-effective option for maintaining a safe, secure, and effective land-based leg of the nuclear triad and would extend its capabilities through 2075.

A missile in flight.
A missile in flight.

The Purpose of and Need for the Proposed Action

  • Replace all Minuteman III missiles currently in the missile fields with the GBSD system.

  • Comply with Public Law 115-232, which directs DoD to accelerate the development, procurement, and fielding of the GBSD program.

  • Continue to maintain effective, responsive, and resilient ICBMs and associated infrastructure.

  • Continue to offer long-term, tangible evidence of U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities to both allies and potential adversaries, thereby contributing to nuclear deterrence and assurance, while providing a hedge against international arms competition.

Members of the public on a tour of an Air Force facility.
Members of the public on a tour of an Air Force facility.

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