Boeing has been awarded a $349.1 million contract and Northrop Grumman a $328.6 million contract for the Ground-based Strategic Deterrent program.
“This contract is to conduct technology maturation and risk reduction to deliver a low technical risk, affordable total system replacement of Minuteman III to meet intercontinental ballistic missiles operational requirements,” a Pentagon contract announcement said.
The decision means rejection of a bid by Lockheed Martin, which also had competed for the work and had put together a high profile team of sub-contractors to execute the project.
Boeing and Northrop now have three years to develop the next ground-based strategic deterrent missile, after which a single company is to be selected to run the program.
The final winning company will be the recipient of a windfall of defense spending. Costs of the program have been estimated to be at least $85 billion, the Washington Post reported.
“The Minuteman III is the enduring ground-based leg of our nuclear triad. However, it is an aging platform and requires major investments to maintain its reliability and effectiveness,” Air Force Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said in a statement.
Inter-continental ballistic missiles produced and maintained by Boeing under the Minuteman program make up one leg of the United States’ so-called nuclear triad, which includes the capability to launch nuclear missiles on a moment’s notice from air, ground and submarine.
“As the Air Force prepares to replace the Minuteman III, we will once again answer the call by drawing on the best of Boeing to deliver the capability, flexibility and affordability the mission requires,” Frank McCall, Boeing’s program manager for the effort, said in a statement.
Northrop Grumman chief executive Wes Bush emphasized his own company’s past experience with missile programs, a company statement posted Monday said.
The Pentagon’s decision is the second big project loss to Lockheed Martin, which earlier lost out in a race to build the B-21 stealth bomber.