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Pentagon estimates $95 billion cost for new ICBM nukes to replace Minuteman III

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Wear)
October 23, 2020

The Pentagon’s cost estimate for a new fleet of nuclear missiles to replace the Minuteman 3 arsenal has been raised to $95.8 billion — an increase of about $10 billion dollars from 2016 estimates, The Associated Press reported Monday.

The new fleet is composed of weapons known as intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, that are part of a plan to replace the majority of the American nuclear force over the next several decades. The project will cost a total of more than $1.2 trillion.

While some critics of the plan’s cost, including former Defense Secretary William J. Perry, say United States national security can be secured without ICBMs, the Pentagon believes they are crucial to preventing war.

After reviewing nuclear policy in 2018, the Trump administration echoed the Pentagon’s views and solidified its commitment to developing a new ICBM generation.

“The ICBM force is highly survivable against any but a large-scale nuclear attack,” the review stated according to The Associated Press. “To destroy U.S. ICBMs on the ground, an adversary would need to launch a precisely coordinated attack with hundreds of high-yield and accurate warheads. This is an insurmountable challenge for any potential adversary today, with the exception of Russia.”

Four hundred Minuteman missiles based in underground silos in Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska make up the current fleet. Each missile is armed with one nuclear warhead.

The number of nuclear warheads is partly managed by the New START treaty with Russia. Set to expire in February, the Trump administration has set new conditions that must be met in order to extend the treaty, but Moscow has yet to accept the new terms.

The United States is also in the process of building a new taskforce of ballistic missile submarines. The new fleet would replace the current Ohio-class strategic submarines. Additionally, the Pentagon is building a new “long-range nuclear-capable bomber” and a “next-generation air-launched nuclear cruise missile,” The Associated Press reported.

Updated warheads are also underway, including a roughly $14.8 billion ICBM warhead replacement.

President Trump has continued the nuclear modernization program that was launched under the previous administration, but Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden has said he would look for ways to scale back the program if he is elected in November.