Hill ICBM building

The Falcon Hill ICBM Building at Hill Air Force Base is pictured on Monday, March 12, 2012.

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The final piece of a puzzle that ensures billions of dollars of work and thousands of jobs at Hill Air Force Base is now in place.

On Tuesday, defense and aerospace contractor Northrop Grumman was formally selected by the U.S. Air Force to modernize the nation’s aging intercontinental ballistic missile system under a $13.3 billion contract.

Known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program, the work will be headquartered at Hill and involves the United States’ current land-based ballistic missile force, which is now made up of some 400 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. 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.

The new program includes the acquisition of missiles, new command and control systems and, eventually, large-scale renovations of launch control centers.

“Our nation is facing a rapidly evolving threat environment and protecting our citizens with a modern strategic deterrent capability has never been more critical,” said Northrop President Kathy Warden, in a press release.

Gen. Tim Ray, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, said the new missiles will have increased accuracy, extended range and improved reliability, giving the U.S. the “edge necessary to compete and win against any adversary.”

In the news release, Northrop announced work associated with the program will also be performed at the company’s Promontory facility in Box Elder County, along with a few other locations across the U.S.

But the lion’s share of the program will happen on the far northwest corner of Hill.

Just over a year ago, Northrop broke ground on the Roy Innovation Center on base. As the program continues to unfold, the campus at Hill will eventually include six new buildings with over 1 million square feet of office and lab facilities.

The latest contract award for Northrop follows a three-year first phase of the program, during which the company worked with the Air Force to build prototypes, determine schedules and cost estimates, and refine proposed manufacturing processes. In that sense, it’s been expected that Northrop would receive the manufacturing and development portion of the contract that was solidified Tuesday.

Tony Young, media relations director at the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said the program is expected to bring at least 2,250 jobs to the Hill headquarters location alone over the next 20 years. Young said Northrop is already the largest aerospace and defense employer in Utah and one of the state’s top 20 largest employers.

“Utah’s aerospace and defense industry will continue to be an important part of our state’s vibrant and diverse economy,” said Val Hale, executive director of GOED, in a statement. “Utah has a long history of contributing to the nation’s defense, and we’re excited to continue this legacy.”

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