LGM-30G Minuteman III
Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
Origin: United States of America
Parent System: LGM-30G Minuteman III
Initial Operational Capability (IOC): 1970
Total Production: 700
Total Cost: USD$10.0 billion
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Description: The LGM-30G Minuteman III is a three stage, solid-fuel, land-based, intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) equipped with nuclear warheads and used within the US deterrent forces. The Minuteman III are dispersed in hardened silos to protect against potential attack and connected to an underground launch control center. Launch crews, consisting of two officers, perform around-the-clock alert in the launch control center.
An extensive life extension program is under way to keep the Minuteman III missile safe, secure and reliable well into the 21st century. Under this program the guidance system will replaced with the Peacekeeper guidance system achieving improved accuracy, the solid-fuel rocket motors will be re-manufactured, stand-by power systems will be replaced, launch control centers and silos will receive improved C3 (Command, Control and Communications), and other improvements will be applied to associated equipment.
Under the Minuteman III Propulsion Replacement Program (PRP), Northrop-Grumman will replace the stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3 motors achieving environmentally safer and more reliable propulsion. Up to eight rocket motor sets will be delivered per month by ATK to Northrop-Grumman with final deliveries expected by April 2009. Aging propellant and obsolete materials and components are being removed and replaced during the remanufacturing program.
The Minuteman III is the third generation of proven Minuteman ballistic missile deployed in the 1960s. In the 1970s the Minuteman III missiles were deployed with 3 nuclear warheads (MIRV), but current disarmament treaties between the United States and Russia (1,700 to 2,200 warheads each country) will involve retrofitting of Minuteman III missiles with a single nuclear warhead by 2010. However the Minuteman III accuracy and reliability will be close to the advanced Peacekeeper missiles.
The US Air Force plans call for the Minuteman III ICBM to remain in active service until at least 2020 and 50 LGM-118 MX Peacekeeper missiles to be retired by 2004. The Minuteman III 15-year modernization program, assigned to Northrop-Grumman, started in 1997 is valued at $6 billion.
By December 2005, all Minuteman III launch control centers will receive the upgraded system known as Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network, or MEECN. MEECN receives extremely-high frequency and very-low frequency signals coming from ground stations, orbiting aircraft, and satellite nodes which includes Milstar as the most significant enhancement.
In September 2005 the US Air Force completed the Minuteman III ICBM force evaluation program which included several missile launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. On 7 September 2005, a Minuteman III was launched from Vandenberg reaching the Marshall Islands 30 minutes later traveling about 4,200 miles (6,900 km). That test concluded with two unarmed warheads hitting at Ronald Reagan Test Site on the Kwajalein atoll to probe the weapon systems accuracy. The final test launch was conducted seven days after involving an US Navy E-6B Mercury airborne command and control post. During that test, the E-6B demonstrated to be able to take control of remote launch sites which lost contact with the launch center on the ground.
In June 2005 the US Air Force stated that the Minuteman III Propulsion Replacement Program (PRP) was going to affect 595 missiles at $2.5 billion cost. The Minuteman III Guidance Replacement Program (GRP) was going to be implemented into 652 missiles with a total cost of $2.4 billion. Both programs were intended to enhance Minuteman III ballistic missile performance well into 21st century.
On February 7, 2006 the US Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $225 million contract to continue PRP activities for over 27 months. This was the fifth contract option exercised by the USAF since the program started in 1999.
On 31 March 2006 Northrop Grumman was awarded a $135 million six-year contract to begin full rate production phase of the Minuteman III Safety Enhanced Reentry Vehicle (SERV). The SERV program will provide LGM118 Peacekeeper's Mark 21 reentry vehicle to 500 Minuteman III missiles by 2011.
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