The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California received a VIP visit from the head of U.S. Strategic Command this week, as it continues to work on the warhead-refresh for the airborne leg of the triad.
Navy Adm. Charles Richard visited the Livermore, Calif., weapons laboratory on Monday, as wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic continued raging through California. The fires, in fact,
Outgoing Livermore Director William Goldstein greeted Richard at what appeared to be a safe physical distance, according to a photograph the lab posted online.
— LLNL (@Livermore_Lab) August 31, 2020
The lab did not say exactly what the two nuclear weapons professionals got up to during the visit, but it’s a safe bet that Livermore’s work on the the W80-4 and W87-1 warheads, needed for the Air Force’s nuclear-armed missiles, came up. The lab is leading development on both these major refurbs.
The W80-4 will tip the planned Long-Range Standoff Weapon cruise missiles that Raytheon [RTX] will build for the Air Force to replace the aging, Boeing [BA]-built AGM-86B Air-Launched Cruise Missile, which carried a W80-1 warhead. The Air Force plans to buy about 1,000 of these missiles, which will be deployed on B52-H bombers around 2030, at a cost of about $10.8 billion, according to a 2020 report by the Congressional Research Service.
The W87-1 will tip the planned silo-based Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent intercontinental ballistic missiles, which the Air Force also plans to deploy beginning around 2030. The service plans to buy more than 650 of these missiles, including spares and test articles. Northrop Grumman [NOC] is expected, before the Sept. 30 end of the 2020 government fiscal year, to get a roughly $20 billion contract to build the first of these missiles for the Air Force. The service plans to deploy 400 of them, replacing the existing Boeing-built Minuteman III fleet on a one-for-one basis.