Navy Strategic System Programs and the Air Force ICBM community should determine exactly what aspects of commonality the services will integrate between the Trident 2 life extension and Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) development efforts “now,” Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, Director of Navy Strategic Systems Programs, said during a speech in Washington on Friday.

“If we want to be able in the future to meet the requirements of the National Command Authority’s strategic deterrence objectives, we must see commonality. The time to determine exactly what that will be is now,” Benedict said during a Peter Huessy Breakfast Series event at Capitol Hill Club. “Because of the urgency of the GBSD effort, delay will simply force the status quo. We need to begin this assessment now, and it needs to be a cooperative effort co-led by senior experienced leaders from the United States Air Force ICBM community and the Navy Strategic Systems Programs with support from the service acquisition executives, the service requirements experts and U.S. STRATCOM.”

Trident II missile being deployed. Photo: DoD.
Trident II missile being deployed. Photo: DoD.

Industry expects the Air Force to release a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) for the GBSD this summer and the service plans to make its Milestone A decision for planned Minuteman 3 follow-on in Fiscal Year 2016.

The “status quo” would involve extending the life of the  Trident 2 through 2084, the entire life of the Ohio-class Replacement, which Benedict said he believes won’t be affordable in the long term.

Steadily working toward commonality could prevent “organizational inertia” that would produce that scenario, Benedict said. “The further we can move toward some aspect of commonality, the greater the cost savings will be,” he said.

One common effort the Air Force and the Navy have been working on is the “Joint Fuze Program,” which applies elements of the fuze for the Trident 2 Mk-5 reentry vehicle to development efforts of the fuze for the GBSD.

Benedict cited this effort not as an example of both services working on an entirely common missile, but as a collaboration on component- and subsystem-level commonality, “resulting in minimized, non-recurring engineering costs and providing for more robust production and sustainment programs.” The common fuze is expected to reach initial operational capacity in FY 2019.