Line of Demarcation

The Air Force expects next fiscal year to finish determining which components of its ICBM infrastructure will fall under the Minuteman III weapon system under a new sustainment model, said Maj. Gen. Sandra Finan, Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center commander. “That might sound like an easy task, but it is absolutely not,” she said on Sept. 16 during the nuclear panel discussion at AFA’s Air & Space Conference outside of Washington, D.C. Sustaining the Minuteman III as a unified weapon system with a central funding pool—as opposed to multiple, disjointed funding accounts—will save money and increase the efficiency of keeping the decades-old MMIIIs viable for their remaining service life, she said. As part of the demarcation process, service officials must decide myriad issues like whether the blast doors at the top of the MMIII silos will be part of the weapon system or end up maintained under a separate funding stream, she told Air Force Magazine. Maintaining the MMIII fleet requires innovation, said Finan. Take, for example, the fuse on the MMIII’s Mk-21 reentry vehicle. “It was never designed for refurbishment, but we, in fact, saved $2 billion by creating a refurbishment process to keep that Mk-21 fuse viable,” she said. (See also Normalizing ICBM Sustainment.)