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CBRN Assessment

US Gen Hyten wants Pentagon nuclear modernisation efforts accelerated

21 June 2017

Key Points

  • A top US officer wants the Pentagon to accelerate its nuclear weapons modernisation efforts
  • These are huge programmes that will all be modernised simultaneously

A top US officer wants the Pentagon to accelerate its nuclear modernisation efforts. (US Air Force)A top US officer wants the Pentagon to accelerate its nuclear modernisation efforts. (US Air Force)

The United States officer in charge of its nuclear arsenal wants the Pentagon to accelerate its nuclear modernisation efforts.

"I have a safe, secure, [and] reliable [nuclear] deterrent today and I will as long as I'm in command," US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) chief General John Hyten told reporters on 20 June following an Air Force Association (AFA)/Mitchell Institute breakfast on Capitol Hill. "The commanders who come after me, they need the same capability, which is why I want those schedules moving left."

The Pentagon over the next 20 years plans to modernise each leg of the nuclear "triad": aircraft, submarines, and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICMB), while also developing a new cruise missile. The new submarine is called the Columbia-Class (Ohio Replacement), the new ICBM is called Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), the new aircraft is the Northrop Grumman B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber (LRSB), and the new cruise missile is the Long Range Standoff (LRSO).

Gen Hyten spent much of a presentation to industry, lobbyists, and legislative staffers decrying how slow the Pentagon's acquisition system has become over the years, which he said has allowed near-peer competitor states to catch up with the United States in terms of technology. Gen Hyten said the United States, for Minuteman I, was able to procure 800 three-stage solid rocket motor missiles with 200 circular error probability (CEP) in five years for USD17 billion in 2017 dollars.

Circular error probability is the measure of a weapon's system precision, according to USAF spokesperson Captain Brian Maguire. Capt Maguire said CEP is the radius of a circle, centred on the mean, whose boundary is expected to include the landing points of 50% of the rounds.

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