Minuteman Missile Looks to the Year 2020

The officer in charge of America’s intercontinental ballistic missile force said plans are well under way to sustain the life of the Minuteman III missile until the year 2020. ”The Minuteman III modernization programs will cost about $7 billion altogether,” said Maj. Gen. Frank Klotz, 20th Air Force commander. ”We are changing out the three-stage solid rocket motors and guidance systems to make [them] more maintainable,” General Klotz said. ”We plan to improve environmental control systems that provide heat, cooling air and power to the missile, and we’re pursuing a service life extension for the missile command consoles at which the officer crews perform their duties.”From U.S. DoD:
New life: Plans on table to sustain Minuteman III

The officer in charge of America’s intercontinental ballistic missile force said plans are well under way to sustain the life of the Minuteman III missile until the year 2020.

Maj. Gen. Frank Klotz, 20th Air Force commander, visited Minot July 20 to officiate the 91st Space Wing change of command ceremony. While he was here he spoke to base Airmen about not only the future of America’s ICBM force, but also the increased operations tempo and the importance of safety both on and off the job.

”The Minuteman III modernization programs will cost about $7 billion altogether. We are changing out the three-stage solid rocket motors and guidance systems to make [them] more maintainable,” General Klotz said. ”We plan to improve environmental control systems that provide heat, cooling air and power to the missile, and we’re pursuing a service life extension for the missile command consoles at which the officer crews perform their duties.”

As for what new deterrence systems will look like after 2020, the 20th AF commander said nothing is set in stone.

”I expect sometime this summer the Pentagon will approve a formal analysis of alternatives which will begin the process in the Air Force and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense to explore, with our industry partners, new types of technologies for a new delivery system, its command and control system and the security that goes with it,” he said. ”What that will all look like, I don’t know. That’s what an analysis of alternatives is supposed to do — take a look at the options out there and decide what will best provide for land-based strategic deterrence in the middle of the 21 century.”

Because of the increased maintenance that goes along with the missile upgrades, the operations tempo in 20th AF remains high, but General Klotz said everyone is helping the process go as smoothly as possible.

”Our operators, maintainers, security forces and people that support them have always been very professional and hard working. They’re certainly stepping up to the challenge,” he said. ”I don’t see that challenge decreasing anytime soon because these modernization efforts will be with us until 2011.”

Another program requiring the attention of 20th Air Force people is the deactivation of the Peacekeeper ICBM based at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. As General Klotz explained, ”We’re also drawing down the total number of operationally deployed strategic weapons in the entire U.S. strategic force. This reduction is in response to the president’s direction and the Moscow Treaty which President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed on May 24, 2002.”

In light of the increased terrorist threats since Sept. 11, 2001, the former 91st Missile Wing commander is confident of the missile system security measures and the people who guard that system.

”I’m very confident of the security of our ICBM forces,” he said. ”There’s a 110-ton blast door that sits on top on the missile silo, there are sensors on the launch facility, and more importantly, there are very capable, well trained security forces who constantly develop and practice their techniques, tactics and procedures for securing and protecting our weapon system.”

”Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a new breed of terrorists have cropped up,” said General Klotz. ”The U.S. confronts an adversary who is persistent, will come back again if they don’t succeed against a particular target, employs different types of tactics and is willing to lose his life in the process of attacking American interests,” he said. ”I’m very confident in the security of America’s ICBM force because of the way it’s designed and because of the capabilities of our security forces. At the same time, I think we need to pursue new technology to make ourselves even more secure than we are now.”

Turning to a different subject, the general said the safety of the people in 20th AF is critical both on-and-off duty.

”The most important thing about safety is face-to-face leadership by supervision at all levels of command,” he said. ”All supervisors need communicate with their people when they deploy to the missile field or when they depart on a temporary duty assignment or leave and to understand what their plans are, what their intent is and to help them think through the various risk factors which they have to deal with.”

Aside from face-to-face contact, the general said there are a number of programs underway to help 20th AF Airmen improve safety.

”We’re partnering with National Transportation Safety Board, and we’ve come up with a way to improve the way we train our drivers. We now routinely train them on skid pads and gravel roads. We need to improve that training by using vehicles that are fully loaded rather than empty because the handling characteristics are very different,” he said. ”We’re also taking a look at the possibility of employing electronic steering control on our vehicles.”

Although the 20th AF remains quiet on a daily basis, the general said he’s confident any adversary will think twice before attacking the United States.

”We don’t show up in the newspaper headlines often. Quite frankly, we like it that way,” he said. ”Because of our security forces Airmen, I think any terrorist that would even remotely contemplate taking some sort of action against our ICBM forces will take one look at the capability of our people and the strength they possess and decide this is not a target they would want to go after.”


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