Giant US aerospace and defence group Boeing announced on Monday that it had been awarded a $1.6-billion sole-source service contract by the US Air Force (USAF). Under the contract, the corporation will service and maintain the guidance systems of the USAF’s land-based Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
The duration of the new contract is 18 years. Boeing has been maintaining the Minuteman III guidance systems, without a break, since 1996.
“As the original equipment manufacturer of the ICBM guidance system, this contract ensures the continued reliability, safety and accuracy of our nation’s land-based strategic deterrent,” said Boeing Guidance Repair Centre site leader Mike Murasky. “We appreciate the confidence the Air Force has demonstrated in our capability to continue providing them with the highest quality support.”
The Boeing Guidance Repair Centre, located in the town of Heath in the US state of Ohio, will be the location where most of the work will be done. It is the group’s navigation and guidance system maintenance and repair ‘centre of excellence’. It is equipped with what Boeing describes as ‘unique’ facilities for stability and inertial calibration.
The group also serves as prime contractor for the sustainment of ICBM’s guidance subsystems. It is the only enterprise which has provided continuous support for every subsystem on the ICBM (ground, propulsion and re-entry, as well as guidance) over the whole life of the weapon system.
The LGM-30G Minuteman III has a range of 13 000 km and the USAF is believed to possess about 440 of them. A three-stage solid-propellant missile, operational Minuteman IIIs are deployed in hardened silos, buried in the ground, in launch complexes spread across the US states of Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming. Currently, each ICBM carries only one nuclear warhead (plus decoys), with a yield probably in the range of 300 kT to 475 kT (1 kT being the force equivalent to 1 000 t of conventional TNT explosive). Extra warheads are, however, held in storage and could be fitted to the missiles, if required.