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Minot AFB to receive $850 million for nuclear weapons upgrades

Minot Air Force Base is in line for a nuclear-sized upgrade as the Department of Defense plans to update its nuclear deterrence capability across the country.

During the Task Force 21 North Dakota Nuclear Triad Symposium in Minot on Tuesday, members of the military, nuclear weapons experts and state lawmakers talked about the importance of upgrading an aging nuclear arsenal and its delivery methods, as China and other adversaries have increased their own defense budgets in recent years.

Over the next 12 years, the DOD plans to upgrade each leg of the nuclear triad that consists of intercontinental ballistic missiles, bomber aircraft and nuclear ballistic missile submarines.

The military’s Minuteman III nuclear ICBMs, which have been in service since the late 1970s, will be replaced with the Sentinel missile system.

Col. Tytonia Moore, deputy director of ICBM modernization, said the Air Force will replace 400 Minuteman III missiles nationwide. Of those, 150 missiles are in North Dakota, which will lead to an estimated $850 million in funding to upgrade Minot Air Force Base facilities.

He said the Air Force plans to reuse as many of the Minuteman III facilities as possible since the missile systems are similar in size. However, additional construction of new facilities will also be needed.

“Even though it’s a new system, we want to take advantage of lease agreements and the property, etc., which hopefully makes it more cost effective,” Moore said.

He said the DOD plans on installing an additional 939 miles of utility corridors to the new facilities near the base. Moore added that building the facilities will bring up to 3,000 workers to the area.

However, Moore said the Sentinel program is also experiencing critical cost overruns of about 37%, and now requires more oversight from Congress and DOD before construction can begin. Prior to the cost overruns, construction was expected to begin on Minot AFB in 2027, but plans are on hold until the program is reevaluated.

Upgrades to the air leg of the nuclear triad will see Northrop Grumman’s B-21 Raider replace the existing B-1 bomber in coming years. The Air Force is expected to maintain a fleet of 100 new B-21 bombers at an average unit cost of nearly $700 million per plane, according to the Air Force.

The sea leg of the nuclear triad will be upgraded with the new Columbia-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine that will replace the aging Ohio-class subs. Each new sub is expected to cost more than $9 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Lt. Gen. Michael Lutton, deputy commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said the triad upgrades are necessary to keep pace with China’s growing influence and increases in military spending, as well as Russia’s continued war in Ukraine.

“Those are just two of the countries that are out there,” said Lutton, adding that North Korea also poses a security concern.

He also touted airmen stationed in Minot and across the world as trained, knowledgeable and ready to defend the nation, if called upon.

“We want them to be decisive,” Lutton said. “We want them to have that information advantage and we want them to have access to those things that will give them a decisive advantage.”

North Dakota Rep. Kelly Armstrong and Gov. Doug Burgum spoke during the event and praised the service members at Minot AFB as an integral part of the state.

Burgum said he hopes to continue making strides through income tax relief and other programs to ensure North Dakota is the friendliest state for military service members and veterans.

After the event, state Sen. Merrill Piepkorn, D-Fargo, said lawmakers received a tour of the Minot AFB nuclear launch facilities.

“The most impressive thing to me about the Air Force, and I’m sure it goes to all the military branches, is the diversity, the enthusiasm, the skill and the dedication these people, many of them young people, have to their jobs,” Piepkorn said. “They take it very seriously and they are very responsible.”

North Dakota Monitor is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. North Dakota Monitor maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Amy Dalrymple for questions at [email protected]. Follow North Dakota Monitor on Facebook and Twitter.



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