The US government is planning to spend up to $5 billion in order to upgrade an ageing nuclear missile system in the state of Wyoming, as part of an ongoing modernization program accelerated under President Donald Trump.
The US military would use the money to modernize the intercontinental ballistic missile system at the heart of Wyoming’s F.E. Warren Air Force Base.
Assigned to the US Air Force Global Strike Command, Warren Air Force base is one of the three strategic missile bases in the US. The facility is also home to the Twentieth Air Force, which commands all of USAF’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
The base, established in 1867, houses around 150 Minuteman III ICBMs in hardened underground silos.
The upgrades program will include concrete pouring for new missile silos and the construction of new buildings that will house improved communications systems to make the ICBM network more efficient.
Developed by military giant Boeing, the Minuteman missile was first launched in 1961 and remains the US military’s only land-based ICBM in service.
The missile is capable of carrying three nuclear warheads and delivering them to targets around 13,000 kilometers (8,100 miles) away.
Warren had also housed Peacekeeper ICBMs before they were retired in 2005 for reliability issues. The expensive missiles entered service in 1986 and could carry up to 10 warheads.
Boeing and Northrop Grumman will jointly develop a replacement for the US Air Force’s ageing Minuteman III ICBMs.
In August, the USAF announced that it had hired Boeing and Northrop Grumman to develop a replacement for the Minuteman III.
The Trump administration is working on a new nuclear weapons policy that would end the post-Cold War disarmament and allow Washington to expand its arsenal.
Washington is currently keeping some 450 long-range nuclear missiles in underground silos across the US, in addition to an undisclosed number deployed to its military bases in Europe.
Trump and his top national security advisers discussed the matter in September at the White House, where the first draft of the new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) was presented.
Besides missiles, the US nuclear triad features a relatively large number of ageing nuclear bombers and submarines in need of modernization.
The Pentagon says it needs $350 billion to upgrade the whole triad along with America’s some 7,000 nuclear warheads. Some reports put the cost at around $1 trillion.