Tuesday, August 16, 2016

New missiles for USAF

The Air Force has released two Requests for Proposals (RFP) at the end of last month.  One is for a new ICBM to replace the aging Minuteman III missiles and the other for a new Long Range Stand Off  Cruise Missile.  Timing is a little odd, for two massively expensive programs just before election day.  Clearly the incoming administration will have it's own ideas. 
   They used to assign snappy names to missile programs.  Atlas, Titan, Thor, Skybolt, and the like.  Now they just go with acronyms.  The ICBM is dubbed "Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Ballistic Missile" or GBSD for short.  The cruise missile is called "Long-Range Standoff Missile"  (LRSO). 
   GBSD is long term and slow going.  USAF budgets $3 billion  over the next five years for studies.  First production missiles are not expected until 2028.  That's a long long time away, many profitable years of contractor paperwork.  Production of 642 missiles will cost $62 billion spread over thirty years.  That's $1 billion per missile in round numbers.  Pricey, very pricey.  It wouldn't cost so much if it didn't take so long.  I remember the original Minuteman program put 1054 missiles into silos inside of five years from start of contract.  And built the necessary 1054 silos at the same time. 
   The LRSO is really a penetration aid missile.  Bombers (B52, B1,B2, B21) carry them to soften up air defenses.  The missiles can reach out 1000 miles ahead of the bomber and vaporize enemy radar sites, fighter bases and SAM sites.  With enough missiles, and good intel about where to shoot them, the bombers are pretty much unstoppable, at least in an all out war where nukes are used.  The program schedule is just as slow as GBSD.  They budget $2.2 billion and 4 1/2 years  for studies.  Then another $10 billion to actually build the missiles. 

No comments: