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US Air Force unveils Ground Based Strategic Deterrent locations

Minuteman III ICBM launch
US Air Force file photo of an unarmed Minuteman III ICBM launch

The US Air Force has disclosed the three existing missile bases that will become home to the Pentagon’s new ground-based leg of the nuclear triad – the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.

The service plans to begin military construction activities as early as 2023 at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, as it moves forward in the process of replacing the aging Minuteman III ICBMs with the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.

Malmstrom AFB, Montana, will be the second installation to begin military construction activities in 2026, with Minot AFB, North Dakota, beginning in 2029.

The construction start dates are pending the completion of environmental impact statements for each base in accordance with Federal laws and policies.

Military construction is phased ahead of the actual deployment of GBSD to allow time for initial beddown, ensure facilities are ready for any unique mission equipment, and support training and operational certification prior to the first sites obtaining operational status at each wing.

Using infrastructure at current locations allows both the Minuteman III and GBSD weapons systems to continue meeting all nuclear surety and safety standards throughout their operational lives, particularly during the transition period, the air force said.

“Ensuring missile bases remain missile bases makes the most sense for the taxpayer and the mission,” said Gen. Tim Ray, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command. “The Minuteman III is 50 years old; it’s past time to upgrade the missile systems. Our goal is ensure our systems remain fully safe, secure and effective in the defense of our nation and allies.”

GBSD is the weapon system replacement for the aging LGM-30 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile system (ICBM). The Minuteman III first became operational in the early 1970s. While certain components and subsystems have been upgraded, most of the fundamental infrastructure in use today is the original equipment supporting more than 50 years of continuous operation.

The GBSD program’s objective is to deliver a low technical risk, affordable, total system replacement, starting in the late 2020s, to improve the ICBM’s capabilities and provide more efficient operations, maintenance, and security at lower lifecycle costs.