The Air Force today released requests for proposals for the two key nuclear modernization efforts -- the Long-Range Standoff Weapon and the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent.
LRSO will replace the Air Force's Air-Launched Cruise Missile, which was fielded in the early 1980s. The new weapon is meant to have greater range, survivability and reliability and the service expects to field the missile by 2010.
According to a July 29 press release, the service expects to select up to two prime contractors for the program's development phase. The two companies will compete through preliminary design review, at which time one design will be chosen for production.
The service intends to buy 1,000 new cruise missiles and expects the LRSO program could cost about $17 billion for the missile and its nuclear-capable warhead.
Meanwhile, the service expects its plan to replace the current Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile with a new Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent will save nearly $20 billion in cost avoidance over five decades. Like for the LRSO, the service expects to award up to two engineering and manufacturing development contracts in the later part of fiscal year 2017.
The service expects to begin deploying the GBSD in the late 2020s and maintain the missiles through 2075.
The Defense Department's plans to modernize its nuclear enterprise have stirred some controversy on Capitol Hill, with some Democrats urging President Obama to rethink the current plan. The LRSO in particular has become a target by some, with five House Democrats noting in a recent letter to the administration that the program's funding be cut.