The official name for the United States’ next nuclear missile, which until now has been referred to as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, was announced by the service Tuesday. LGM-35A Sentinel will replace LGM-30G Minuteman III.
The Sentinel is to succeed the 5-decade-old Minuteman III beginning in 2029, and it would represent a major and a costly upgrade (at $100 billion) to the ICBM portion of the U.S. nuclear triad. Nuclear-armed bombers, such as the B-52 Stratofortress and the in-development B-21 Raider, as well as submarines make up the other two portions of the nuclear triad.
The LGM-30G Minuteman III was first deployed in 1970. There are now about 400 Minuteman IIIs in hardened silos, designed to withstand attacks, spread out across the country at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, and other sites in Colorado and Nebraska.
The Defense Department says the $100 billion Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program is necessary to modernize the ICBM force and maintain an effective deterrent to China and Russia. The department also says the GBSD effort would be about $38 billion cheaper than extending the Minuteman III through 2075.
The Air Force said the Sentinel will use a modular architecture that can be easily upgraded with new, emerging technologies to meet evolving threats, and will be easier to maintain than the Minuteman. This will save money and keep the Sentinel relevant well into the 2070s, the service said.