Lockheed opens office at Hill AFB, working to replace part of US nuclear triad

Friday , October 21, 2016 - 9:28 AM

MITCH SHAW, Standard-Examiner Staff

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The manufacturer of the F-35 is bringing a new office to Hill Air Force Base, but the work that will be done there is about striking from the ground rather than in the air.

Lockheed Martin announced Thursday it will open a program management office at Hill’s Falcon Hill National Aerospace Research Park, competing for a multi-billion dollar contract to replace a major piece of the country’s nuclear triad. 

The office will work to develop a replacement for the Air Force’s fleet of Minuteman III nuclear missiles under the force’s “Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program.” 

According to a report from the Congressional Research Service, the United States’ land-based ballistic missile force is currently made up of 440 Minuteman III ICBMs. The fleet will eventually be cut to 400 missiles to meet the terms of the New START arms control treaty with Russia. The Air Force is upgrading the missiles, their rocket motors and other components, but plans to replace them through the GBSD program by about 2030, according to the CRS report.

Earlier this summer, the Air Force selected Lockheed, Boeing and Northrop Grumman to compete for a contract that will deliver the first set of new missiles. According the the CRS, the program will cost $62.3 billion and run for 30 years. The total cost includes $48.5 billion to acquire 642 missiles, $6.9 billion for command and control systems, and another $6.9 billion to renovate launch control centers.

The report says the 642 missiles “would support testing and deployment of a force of 400 missiles” so the fleet will remain static over the 30-year time period.

Lockheed’s lease agreement with Falcon Hill developer Woodbury Corporation includes 25,000 square feet of office space and another 75,000-square-foot facility designed for technology development. 

In a press release, Lockheed Martin Vice President and GBSD Program Manager John Karas said Lockheed selected Hill’s research park because of the base’s historical ties to the ICBM program.

“Our GBSD program management team will work and live in Utah because the Hill Air Force Base community matters to the ICBM mission,” Karas said in the release.

Hill is home to the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center ICBM Systems Directorate, which manages the Minuteman weapon systems. Lockheed also performs engineering and maintenance work on the warhead re-entry vehicles for the Minuteman missiles at Hill.

As the Pentagon continues to draw down its active ICBM fleet, Hill will eventually store 50 unarmed missiles on base. Though unarmed, the missiles are reusable.

Amanda Butterfield, a public relations officers with Falcon Hill, said Lockheed’s new office would potentially bring “dozens” of new jobs to Northern Utah.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/MitchShaw.StandardExaminer.

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