The Air Force said Thursday that its Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) procurement has entered the technology maturation and risk reduction phase following the Aug. 23 approval of the program’s Milestone A.

“The milestone approval was granted following a determination by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics that the Air Force’s GBSD acquisition plan is appropriately structured to reduce risk, balance design and requirement trades, and ensure affordable program execution,” the Air Force said in its announcement.

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

The service released a request for proposals at the end of July for this phase of GBSD acquisition, an advanced development operation intended to identify specific technologies for integration into the full system. Bids are due by Oct. 12 and the Air Force plans to award up to two contracts in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2017 for an estimated 36-month period of performance.

The GBSD ICBM would replace the decades-old Minuteman III ICBM. The Air Force expects to begin deploying the new weapon in the late 2020s, with a service life intended to extent through 2075. Congress has authorized $114 million for the GBSD program for fiscal 2017 and the Air Force expects to spend another $3.2 billion from fiscal 2018 to 2021. The program is expected to cost a total of $62.3 billion over 30 years in then-year dollars.

Boeing [BA], Northrop Grumman [NOC], and Lockheed Martin [LMT] have confirmed their intent to bid on the request for proposals for the technology maturation and risk reduction (TMRR) phase. Boeing developed the original Minuteman missile starting in 1958, while Lockheed Martin developed the Air Force’s first-ever operational ICBM and provided ground command and control systems for the Minuteman III. Northrop Grumman also served as the Air Force’s ICBM systems engineering and technical assistance contractor for several decades.