The nuclear triad, composed of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, submarines and strategic bombers, has been a credible deterrent to a “bolt out of the blue” attack, said the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, referring to an all-out nuclear attack on the United States.
Navy Adm. Charles Richard briefed the media at the Pentagon today.
“I do want to report that Stratcom remains ready to accomplish all of our assigned missions. That has not been easy, given the COVID environment and other things, but we’re fully mission capable,” he said.
While strategic deterrence is incredibly important, Richard said it’s also important to look at the totality of an appropriate response to any given threat, to include conventional deterrence in all domains.
Richard then took questions from the press, one of which was about the reliability of the ICBM leg of the triad.
The Minuteman III system is fully reliable today in terms of system performance and its ability to meet the threat, according to the Air Force, which is responsible for maintaining it, he said.
However, the system is old and it’s getting increasingly harder to maintain it, he noted. “I want us to recognize that you can’t indefinitely life-extend anything. You can’t take stuff that you got back at the end of the Cold War, and to think somehow, forever, you can continue to make it work. There’s a point where it becomes not cost effective to do that. And, there’s another point out there where it’s not possible at all.
“And, I want to make sure that we think through these decisions and recognize that those points exist and look for them,” he added.
The Minuteman III replacement is the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, which is a newer model of ICBMs in the early stages of development. Richard said that the GBSD is slated to replace the Minuteman III beginning in 2029, when initial operating capability is expected.
Richard also said he applauded the decision to stand up the U.S. Space Command. “I think it has been a great benefit to my mission sets.”
Spacecom will provide Stratcom with reliable missile warning, missile defense and space situational awareness, using its sensor suite of capabilities, he noted.