The U.S. Air Force on Friday released requests for proposals (RFP) for technology maturation and risk reduction operations for the Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) and Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) missile programs, part of the United States’ plan to modernize each leg of the nuclear triad. The service plans to award up to two contracts in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2017 for each program.

The LRSO nuclear cruise missile is intended to replace the aging air-launched cruise missile. The missile, to be fielded by 2030, will be carried on B-52, B-2, and B-21 aircraft, the Air Force said. The program is expected to cost $20 billion to $30 billion for approximately 1,000 missiles, which will be able to carry both conventional and nuclear warheads.

The Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) is the predecessor to the eventual Long Range Standoff  (LRSO) weapon. Photo: Air Force.
The Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) is the predecessor to the eventual Long Range Standoff (LRSO) weapon. Photo: Air Force.

“LRSO’s range, survivability, reliability and credibility are key elements of the air-delivered leg of the U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces deterrent,” the Air Force said in announcing the RFPs. “Nuclear-capable bombers armed with standoff missiles provide the nuclear triad a clear, visible and tailorable deterrent effect, and deny geographic sanctuaries to any potential adversary.”

The service said it plans to award contracts to up to two prime contractors after it receives industry proposals to its classified RFP. These contractors will then create a preliminary missile design over 54 months, after which the Air Force will choose a single contractor.

The LRSO has faced pushback from Capitol Hill, with critics in Congress arguing the missile is too costly and when deployed could lead to miscalculation by adversaries and inadvertent nuclear war. The program’s supporters counter that the United States has fielded nuclear and conventional cruise missiles in the past without similar ambiguity concerns.

Meanwhile, the GBSD ICBM is meant to replace aging Minuteman III ICBMs, which the Air Force said “will face increased operational and sustainment challenges until it can be replaced.”

The Air Force expects to begin deploying the new GBSD system in the late 2020s, with a service life that will extend through 2075. It intends to award up to two cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts for GBSD’s technology maturation and risk reduction work, with an estimated 36-month period of performance.

The contract award is expected in summer 2017, the solicitation said. Proposals for the GBSD solicitation are due by Oct. 12. Interested bidders may visit to contact Air Force contracting officers for access to RFP documents.