The Air Force is on track for a Milestone A decision this year in its Ground Based Strategic Deterrence (GBSD) program, according to a top general.

Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein said Thursday the Defense Department fiscal year 2017 budget request includes $6.5 billion for nuclear deterrence. He said the budget also forecasts requesting $38 billion over the next five years to sustain and modernize the nuclear force. Weinstein said this includes $1.2 billion over next five years for nuclear command, control and communications (NC3) modernization to ensure command and control (C2) systems are protected against cyber attacks.

The Air Force test launches a Minuteman III ICBM in September 2010. Photo: Air Force.
The Air Force test launches a Minuteman III ICBM in September 2010. Photo: Air Force.

A Milestone A decision is a key point in the development of a DoD weapon system. Its purpose is to make a recommendation or seek approval to enter the technology maturation and risk reduction (TMRR) phase. A Milestone A decision will include a review of acquisition strategy, business approach, program risks, should cost management, affordability analysis, cost estimate and proposed affordability goals, among others.

A major defense acquisition program many not receive Milestone A approval until the milestone decision authority certifies that the program: fulfills an approved initial capabilities document, is being executed by an entity with a relevant core competency, an analysis of alternatives has been performed, an initial lifecycle cost estimate has been submitted and the level resources required to develop and procure the program is consistent with the priority level assigned.

The Air Force, Weinstein said, requested funding to upgrade the B-2 bomber’s secure communications capability and the B-52 bomber’s radar. Weinstein said upgrading the B-52’s radar would ensure the aircraft benefits from commonality and would completely integrate it with the joint force. Weinstein’s remarks came at Defense Daily sister publication ExchangeMonitor’s Nuclear Deterrence Summit in Arlington, Va.

GBSD will design, develop, produce and deploy a replacement for the current Minuteman III ICBM weapon system, according to budget documents. GBSD is scoped to deliver a fully-integrated weapon system beginning about FY ’28. Major GBSD activities include: flight system, weapon system command and control, launch systems and weapon system integration. The Air Force requested $114 million for GBSD this fiscal year and anticipates requesting $3.2 billion between FY ’18 and FY ’21.

The Air Force will competitively award two contracts in FY ’17 for the TMRR phase of the program. The objectives of TMRR for GBSD are: deliver a modular, integrated weapon system preliminary design and mature technology and demonstrate performance of subsystem capabilities through prototyping, modeling and simulation. The TMRR phase will include a system requirements review, a system functional review and will culminate in a system preliminary design review (PDR), another key milestone in a weapon system’s development. PDR is slated for May 2019.

The anticipated period of performance for the TMRR contracts will be from fiscal years 2017-2020. After Milestone B approval, slated for June 2020, an engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract will be competitively awarded in FY ’20.