Jan. 6 (UPI) — The Minuteman III program of 450 missiles, begun in1970, must be replaced and not extended, U.S. Strategic Command chief Adm. Charles Richard said.
Richard’s comments, made during a virtual briefing on Tuesday, come as President-elect Joe Biden‘s incoming administration considers ways to reduce the cost of a planned 30-year, $ 1.2 trillion modernization of the United States’ nuclear defense capabilities.
“Let me be very clear: you cannot life-extend Minuteman III, alright? It is getting past the point of it’s not cost effective to life-extend Minuteman III,” Richard told reporters.
“That thing is so old, in some cases, the drawings don’t exist anymore, or where we have drawings, they’re like six generations behind the industry standard. There’s not only not anybody working that can understand them, they’re not alive anymore,” Richard said.
The intercontinental ballistic missile is derived from the Minuteman I program, begun in 1952.
It precedes the Air Force’s under-development Ground Base Strategic Deterrent, which is scheduled to replace all 450 Minuteman III missiles by 2027.
The ICBMs are the most controversial element in the U.S. Nuclear Triad concept, which provides a nuclear capability on land, on sea and in the air.
The missiles, housed in underground silos across the country, are only of use to repel incoming missiles, and require at least seven minutes for a missile that is detected.
The missiles were designed for two-peer combat [the United States and the Soviet Union], are regarded by many as obsolete, and more prone to cyberassualts than modern armaments.
“We will replace a 60-year-old — basically a circuit switch — system with a modern cyber-defendable, up-to-current standards command and control system,” Richard said.
“Just to pace the cyber threat alone, GBSD is a necessary step forward,” he added.