Building new missiles can and should be cheaper than overhauling old minuteman ICBMs

A brand-new ICBM may cost the nation more than $85 billion, but keeping the geriatric Minuteman will cost even more.

Boeing would rather build you an all-new missile. That’s what the Air Force calls the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent. Lockheed and Northrop are also competing. GBSD would get you better performance, he said, including against modern, precision-guided missile defenses, which didn’t exist when the Minuteman was designed. Even sticking with low-risk, proven technology, it would be decades more advanced than Minuteman.

The new missile would also feature a modular, plug-and-plug design – known as open architecture – that would make replacing components both for maintenance and upgrades much easier than on the Minuteman III. Most important, perhaps, the new missile would be designed from the start to last for decades – until at least the 2070s – while Minuteman was originally meant to last just 10 years. Between the open architecture and the build-to-last philosophy, McCall said, GBSD would be cheaper to maintain over the long haul than Minuteman.

GBSD is still cheaper than re-re-rebuilding the Minuteman: “You will have ended up replacing just about everything on the missile, which will cost you more (than GBSD), but nobody believes me.” Now that we’ve heard more of the details from Boeing, maybe we will.

Nextbigfuture – Although the cost of building a new missile can and should be cheaper than overhauling the old Minuteman missiles, both efforts would likely have cost overruns and delays. There is also the question of whether the most vulnerable part of the nuclear Triad should be rebuilt. The Nuclear Triad has the submarine based weapons, the bomber based weapons and the silo and mobile ground based weapons. The silo and ground based weapons are the most vulnerable to a first strike from Russia.