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Pentagon: Cost of New Nukes $95.8B     10/20 06:20

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon has raised to $95.8 billion the estimated 
cost of fielding a new fleet of land-based nuclear missiles to replace the 
Minuteman 3 arsenal that has operated continuously for 50 years, officials said 
Monday.

   The estimate is up about $10 billion from four years ago.

   The weapons, known as intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, are 
intended as part of a near-total replacement of the American nuclear force over 
the next few decades at a total cost of more than $1.2 trillion.

   Some, including former Defense Secretary William J. Perry, argue that U.S. 
national security can be ensured without ICBMs, but the Pentagon says they are 
vital to deterring war. The Trump administration affirmed its commitment to 
fielding a new generation of ICBMs in a 2018 review of nuclear policy.

   "The ICBM force is highly survivable against any but a large-scale nuclear 
attack," the review concluded. "To destroy U.S. ICBMs on the ground, an 
adversary would need to launch a precisely coordinated attack with hundreds of 
high-yield and accurate warheads. This is an insurmountable challenge for any 
potential adversary today, with the exception of Russia."

   The current fleet of 400 deployed Minuteman missiles, each armed with a 
single nuclear warhead, is based in underground silos in Montana, North Dakota, 
Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. Their numbers are governed in part by the 2010 
New START treaty with Russia, which is due to expire in February. Russia wants 
to extend the treaty but the Trump administration has set conditions not 
accepted by Moscow.

   The U.S. also is building a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines to 
replace the current Ohio-class strategic subs; a new long-range nuclear-capable 
bomber to replace the B-2 stealth aircraft; a next-generation air-launched 
nuclear cruise missile; and a new nuclear command and communications system. It 
also is working on updated warheads, including an ICBM warhead replacement for 
an estimated $14.8 billion.

   The nuclear modernization program was launched by the Obama administration 
and has been continued by President Donald Trump. Democrat Joe Biden has said 
that if elected in November he would consider finding ways to scale back the 
program.

   The Pentagon's $95.8 billion cost estimate for the Minuteman replacement was 
first reported by Bloomberg News. The Pentagon provided the estimate to 
Congress last month but had, until Monday, refused to release it publicly.

   Last month the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $13.3 billion contract 
for engineering and manufacturing development of the new missiles. The total 
"lifecycle" cost, including operating and sustaining the missiles over their 
expected lifetime into the 2070s, is set at $263.9 billion.

 
 
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