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U.S. Sens. Lee, Romney pursue legislation to bolster Sentinel ICBM plans

By Tim Vandenack - | Jun 15, 2023

Image supplied, U.S. Air Force

The rendering depicts a missile envisioned as part of the LGM-35A Sentinel program, now being developed at Hill Air Force Base and other installations. The Sentinel ground-based intercontinental ballistic missle program will eventually replace the Minuteman III ICBM system.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As development of the Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile system proceeds out of Hill Air Force Base and other military installations, U.S. lawmakers are pursuing legislation aimed at solidifying the defense program.

The U.S. Air Force in 2020 announced a $13.3 billion contract with Northrop Grummon to develop the ground-based ICBM program, formally dubbed LGM-35A Sentinel. Much of the development work is taking place at and around Hill AFB, where Northrop Grummon has a large and growing presence.

Now, U.S. Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, both of Utah, have joined several other lawmakers in pursuing the Sentinel Nuclear Deterrence Act of 2023, which would give the U.S. Air Force authority to acquire up to 659 missiles for the planned system via a multi-year contract. The system will be a key part of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, serving as the land-based leg of the U.S. nuclear triad and ultimately replacing the Minuteman III ICBM system.

“As China and Russia continue to modernize and expand their nuclear forces, it’s essential that we rapidly modernize our nuclear triad,” Romney said in a statement. “Passing this legislation would demonstrate our firm commitment to the modernization of our nuclear forces at a time when deterrence is of paramount importance, while simultaneously increasing efficiencies.”

Lee said in a statement that the legislation will help “bring efficiency and fiscal responsibility” to the modernization plans while Sen. Deb Fischer, a Nebraska Republican, said the measure will help keep Sentinel development on schedule.

“I’ve pushed for years on the importance of modernizing our nuclear triad to keep pace with the growing threats we face. There is no question that the Sentinel project is the most significant and complex weapon system in recent U.S. history,” said Fischer. She’s the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, where the measure will get initial consideration.

The bill also calls for creation of a report looking into how to stabilize availability of “key commodities” like concrete and steel to develop the Sentinel network, though it doesn’t contain any funding earmarks.

The Sentinel Systems Directorate is principally located at Hill AFB, according to Romney’s statement. F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming, Malmstrom AFB in Montana, Minot AFB in North Dakota, the Utah Test and Training Range, Camp Guernsey in Wyoming and Camp Navajo in Arizona are also playing a role in Sentinel program development.


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