WASHINGTON — Northrop Grumman has captured a $13.3 billion award for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent competition to build the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation intercontinental ballistic missiles, the service announced Sept. 8.

Beginning in 2029, GBSD will start replacing the LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBMs, which were fielded in 1970, Northrop said in a statement.

According to the Air Force, GBSD “will have increased accuracy, enhanced security, and improved reliability to provide the United States with an upgraded and broader array of strategic nuclear options to address the threats of today and the future.”

Northrop was the sole bidder for the engineering, manufacturing and development contract after Boeing dropped out from the competition in July 2019 over Northrop’s acquisition of solid rocket motor manufacturer Orbital ATK, now known as Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems.

Boeing contended that it did not have enough time to negotiate a competitive price for the motors needed for the GBSD program due to Northrop’s slow pace in signing an agreement that would allow Boeing to work with Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems while keeping Boeing’s intellectual property away from its rival GBSD team.

However, the Air Force declined to alter its acquisition strategy.

In December, Northrop Grumman submitted a bid for the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the program, while Boeing confirmed that it had not entered its own proposal.

“Our nation is facing a rapidly evolving threat environment, and protecting our citizens with a modern strategic deterrent capability has never been more critical,” Northrop CEO Kathy Warden said. “With more than 65 years of technical leadership on every ICBM system, our nationwide team is honored and committed to continuing our partnership with the U.S. Air Force to deliver a safe, secure and effective system that will contribute to global stability for years to come.”

Northrop’s industry team for the program includes Aerojet Rocketdyne, Bechtel, Clark Construction, Collins Aerospace, General Dynamics, HDT Global, Honeywell, Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, L3 Harris, Lockheed Martin, Textron Systems, and other businesses, the company said in a statement. Its own work on the missiles will predominantly be carried out at Northrop’s facilities in the cities of Roy and Promontory in Utah.

During an August interview with Defense News, Boeing defense head Leanne Caret declined to comment on whether the company would pursue a protest or other legal action. On Tuesday, the company gave no indication on whether it would lodge a protest.

“Boeing supports the U.S. Air Force and its efforts to modernize the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force,” a spokesman said in a statement. 'We will continue working alongside airmen to keep the Minuteman ICBM mission-ready while delivering innovative solutions in support of strategic deterrence today and tomorrow."

The Air Force intended to finance two competitors through the technology maturation and risk reduction phase, with Boeing and Northrop winning contracts worth up to $359 million in 2017. However, in October 2019, the service stopped the flow of funds to Boeing under the original award, causing Boeing to halt work on the program early.

Despite having only a single bidder, the Air Force stressed that Northrop’s GBSD proposal is on track according to schedule and is within budget.

“This contract provides the best overall value to the war fighter and taxpayers,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Genatempo, the service’s program executive officer for strategic systems.

“The GBSD program is leveraging technologies to reduce the program’s technical risk and ensure time-certain delivery to meet the war fighter’s need. Its acquisition strategy focuses on mature technologies, smart commonality, modular designs, and maintaining the Air Force’s ability to leverage competition throughout the weapon system’s life cycle to ensure it will effectively adapt to evolving environments.”

Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.

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