The Air Force intends to apply the estimated $300 million in additional funding it is making available to the ICBM fleet over the next five years to developing better Minuteman III depot maintenance and sustainment practices, said Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, Air Force Global Strike Command boss, on June 24. The command is undertaking an effort to “normalize” ICBM sustainment, said Wilson during an AFA-sponsored talk in Arlington, Va. Today, the Air Force doesn’t have a “good demarcation” of the components that make up the entire Minuteman weapon system, he said. The challenge, he noted, is that an ICBM is largely perceived as being a “no-fly system,” meaning the Air Force is not sustaining it like aircraft systems. “It’s an always-fly system though. … I can’t fund it as spare parts or ground equipment, so we have to change the mindset on that,” said Wilson. Programmed depot maintenance for ICBMs currently is more akin to what the Air Force does with an aircraft during a phase inspection, not a comprehensive depot visit, he said. “We can’t just fly to fail on every item, which is what we’ve done in the past,” said Wilson.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.