The Department of Energy seeks nearly a four-fold funding increase for development of the the W87-1, silo-based intercontinental ballistic-missile warhead in fiscal year 2021, plus more than $1 billion to help build the cores for that warhead, according to new budget details released Monday.

The civilian agency’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) seeks more than $540 million for the W87-1 program in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, up from just over $110 million appropriated by Congress for 2020.

It is by far the biggest increase, either proportionally or by raw dollars, that the NNSA seeks for any of its weapons life extension programs and major alterations for 2021. GBSD is intended to tip Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) missiles starting in 2030 or so.

For the W80-4 program, which like W87-1 is led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the NNSA seeks roughly $1 billion, up a little more than 10% compared with the 2020 appropriation of nearly $900 million. W80-4 is the planned tip of the Long Range Standoff weapon cruise missile: a next-generation, air-launched weapon slated to go into service only a little sooner than GBSD.

The Long Range Standoff weapon will replace the 1980s-vintage AGM 86-B nuclear cruise around the end of this decade. GBSD will replace 1970s vintage Minuteman III missiles. The Air Force plans to buy 1,000 or so new cruise missiles, and more than 600 GBSD missiles.





Source: DOE Chief Financial Officer.

Meanwhile, according to site-by-site spending tables the NNSA released on Monday, the agency is requesting $1.4 billion in 2021 for what it calls Savannah River Plutonium Modernization. The NNSA has tapped Savannah River and Los Alamos National Laboratory to produce 80 W87-1 style plutonium pits annually by 2030. NNSA intends for Los Alamos to come online in 2024, casting 10 pits a year, and hit 30 pits a year by 2026. 

The NNSA wants Savannah River to produce 50 pits a year starting in 2030, though the agency admits this will be a difficult milestone to hit.

For the planned Savannah River pit plant itself, the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility, the NNSA seeks a little more than $240 million in 2021. The plant, to be built by reconfiguring the partially completed Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, is scheduled to reach the CD-1 milestone around June.

At that point, the NNSA will finalize its design for turning the former plutonium recycling plant into a pit factory. Construction and acquisition of pit-casting hardware would notionally start after that.