The Case for Sticking with the Minuteman

The Air Staff recently asked RAND to look at what the Air Force could do with the current ICBM force of Minuteman III missiles after 2030, said Chad Ohlandt, an associate engineer with RAND. What the research organization found was that the incremental modernization of the Minuteman force is a reasonably smart idea, Ohlandt told attendees at AFA’s Global Warfare Symposium in Los Angeles last week. He said RAND concluded that silos likely will continue to be the most cost-effective basing option—as opposed to mobile basing—since any nation-state adversary would have to expend most of its nuclear arsenal to attack the current-sized Minuteman force. Further, silos are more affordable and more survivable than they were in the Cold War, noted Ohlandt, making incremental modernization and sustainment of this enterprise “relatively inexpensive” and an option that the Air Force should seriously consider. The Air Force already has modernized parts of the Minuteman force. Upgrading it further between Fiscal 2012 and Fiscal 2050 would cost approximately $2 billion a year, compared to about $2.8 billion annually for a new missile fleet, estimated Ohlandt. 2030 is the projected date when the Air Force might retire the Minuteman IIIs.