Vandenberg Air Force Base is first in line to continue hosting the formal training unit for intercontinental ballistic missile operators as new nuclear missiles come online over the next two decades.
Acting Air Force Secretary John Roth tapped the California base as the preferred location for specialized training on the future ICBMs, currently known as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, pending an environmental review, the service said Thursday. A final decision will come once that review is done.
Vandenberg already hosts operations courses for the current ICBM fleet at the 381st Training Group. Also at the base is the 576th Flight Test Squadron, which handles Minuteman III test launches throughout the year to ensure the missile systems are working properly and to vet upgrades.
GBSD missiles will replace all 400 operational Minuteman III missiles in silos across the United States between fiscal 2029 and 2036, according to the Air Force. The land-based portion of the American nuclear triad sits underground in parts of Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado.
Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor building a modern, longer-range missile fleet, estimated to cost as much as $264 billion — plus another $14.8 billion for the nuclear warheads — for development, assembly and decades of operation.
“We are fully committed to the GBSD program of record, which will ensure our nation’s nuclear force is ready to meet the warfighting needs of today and tomorrow,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown said in a press release.
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.