The United States Air Force formally asked defense companies to submit bids to design and build new cruise missiles and ICBMs as well as replacement parts for existing missiles on Friday. This has outraged several Democratic Senators despite the U.S. nuclear arsenal potentially being obsolete by 2030.
The request is being called the first step toward buying new nuclear weapons. The two-fold request are part of a larger modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal and is expected to cost hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 30 years. The Air Force hopes to begin replacing the 450 currently-deployed ICBMs in their arsenal by 2027. The Air Force currently oversees two out of the three “legs” of America’s nuclear arsenal.
The Air Force released a statement explaining they would choose up to two contractors by the end of 2017 to build the new cruise missiles. Once selected the two contractors will be pitted against each other and given 54 months ““to complete a preliminary design with demonstrated reliability and manufacturability” at the end of the 54 month period a single contractor will be chosen. The Air Force is requesting the cruise missiles to replace the current air-launched missiles that were build in the 1980’s and developed in the 1970’s.
Maj. Gen. Scott Jansson, Commander of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center and Air Force program executive officer for strategic systems, claims that the nation’s nuclear arsenal is an extremely important deterrence strategy and must be updated to maintain American superiority. He argues that the ground-based missiles that are being requested from the contractors are far superior to the current air-launched ICMBs.
Gen. Robin Rand, who heads Air Force Global Strike Command, echoed Jansson’s comments. He stated that the current nuclear arsenal “would have a difficult time surviving current air defense systems.” Many infer that the U.S.’s arsenal could be obsolete by 2030. Several Democratic Senators have fiercely opposed the request for updated nuclear weapons and have requested that the Obama Administration scale back plans for updating nuclear armaments.