HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The Air Force is restructuring its Nuclear Weapons Center, splitting a section of the outfit in two and bringing work to Hill Air Force Base.
Headquartered at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, the center’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Systems Directorate will be divided into two new groups: the Minuteman III Systems Directorate and the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Systems Directorate, according to Leah Bryant, spokesperson with the NWC’s public affairs office. The work will be done at Hill.
Maj. Gen. Shaun Morris, commander of the NWC, said the shift was necessitated by the Air Force’s “increased focus on the modernization of the ICBM,” the third leg of the United States’ nuclear triad.
“(The restructuring) allows us to centralize some functional requirements, such as manpower and security, at a central operating location at Hill,” Morris said in a press release.
The restructuring is the latest ICBM-related move to impact Hill. The base had previously been selected as home to the Department of Defense’s nuclear missile replacement program, which will cost more than $80 billion and run for at least 30 years. The total cost of that program includes the acquisition of missiles, new command and control systems, and large-scale renovations of launch control centers. The program will replace the United States’ current land-based ballistic missile force, which is made up of some 400 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Hill officials say the program will bring as many as 2,500 jobs to the area.
Currently being built up near Hill’s southwest border with Roy, the program will eventually include six new buildings in one base — over 1 million square feet of office and lab facilities. Completion on first 231,000 square feet is scheduled to be finished by mid-2020. In August 2019, Northrop Grumman broke ground on the Roy Innovation Center, which will serve as future headquarters for Northrop’s work supporting the program.
Col. Luke Cropsey, who will head the new ICBM directorate office at Hill, said the Minuteman III is the “most responsive leg of the nuclear triad” and work being done in the program is some of the most significant in the military. Cropsey said the ground-based missile anchors the other two legs of the triad: submarine and aircraft missiles. Launch centers are located strategically across multiple states and have more than 500 precise “aimpoints” or targets. Cropsey said a U.S. adversary would have to attack all of the locations simultaneously, making a large-scale conventional or nuclear attack on the U.S. homeland highly unlikely.