Time for Rethink

The Air Force has no doubt that the Minuteman III ICBM fleet will remain viable out to 2020, Gen. Robert Kehler, commander of Air Force Space Command, said last week. But extending the life of the nation’s long-range, nuclear-tipped ballistic missile fleet out to 2030, as Congress has asked USAF to explore, does raise questions—as well as provide the opportunity to re-examine the future makeup of the land-based strategic deterrent, the general said at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando. “Congress told us to go and look and see what it will take to go to 2030, and we are in the process of doing that,” Kehler said during a meeting with reporters. “It may very well be that without much additional investment, we can go to 2030,” he said. Conversely, the new analysis may show that it would make more sense to move to “a more flexible deterrent that would be maybe a mixture of conventional and nuclear,” he said. This future mixed LBSD “would complement the Air Force’s new bomber,” he said during his AFA presentation earlier on that same day. He also told the reporters that USAF is mulling the concept of creating a common “family of motors” that would be shared among the space rockets and ballistic missiles used by the Air Force, Navy, NASA, and Missile Defense Agency.