Minuteman 3 launch control centers, built in the 1960s, aren’t exactly state of the art — but they are very secure against cyber attacks. “When you bring on all the new systems…all are going to come in with a new command-and-control architecture. They are not going to build the ‘60s architecture,” Hyten says. Credit: U.S. Air Force/Josh Aycock

WASHINGTON — Defense and space contractor Kratos and the engineering firm Bechtel have joined Northrop Grumman’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent team to develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile for the U.S. Air Force.

Bechtel will provide launch system design, construction and integration services; Kratos Defense and Security Solutions will supply missile and payload transporters, Northrop Grumman announced Feb. 25.

The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program will be a decades-long effort to design, develop, produce and deploy a replacement for the current Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile. ICBMs are the land-based leg of the U.S. strategic nuclear triad.

Greg Manuel, vice president of the GBSD enterprise at Northrop Grumman, said the company is investing in “people and facilities in order to meet the Air Force schedule of fielding GBSD in 2029.”

The Air Force confirmed in December that Northrop Grumman was the only bidder for GBSD after Boeing decided to drop out of the competition. Boeing said Northrop Grumman’s dominance of the solid rocket motors market gave it an overwhelming pricing advantage it could not compete against.

The nation’s only other manufacturer of solid rocket motors, Aerojet Rocketdyne, joined Northrop’s team in September. Other partners include BRPH, Clark Construction, Collins Aerospace, General Dynamics, Honeywell, L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, Parsons and Textron Systems. Northrop’s GBSD operations will be headquartered in Utah, near Hill Air Force Base.

In the absence of other competitors, the Air Force is expected to award a sole-source development contract to Northrop Grumman in August.

The Pentagon’s 2021 budget request includes $1.5 billion for GBSD engineering and development. The Air Force plans to request an additional $12 billion for the program between 2022 and 2025, according to budget documents.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...