ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, TENN. – The growth of AEDC’s critical role in providing the United States Armed Forces with developmental test and evaluation support for the newest and premier weapon systems continues with the stand up of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Combined Test Force (CTF) to support modernization and life extension for the LGM-30 Minuteman III (MMIII) and development of the next generation Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) ICBM.
According to Col. Timothy West, Senior Materiel Leader, Test Operations Division, “the CTF at Hill [Air Force Base] will ensure that resources will be efficiently and effectively used to conduct testing and to oversee a confederation of Developmental Test and Evaluation (DT&E) organizations, each with different but necessary skills in support of ICBM DT&E programs.”
On July 24, 2015, the Air Force Test Center was designated as the GBSD Lead Developmental Test and Evaluation Organization (LDTO). AFTC subsequently appointed the AEDC Test Operations Division, led by West, to serve as its primary interface to the GBSD Program Office and to serve as its LDTO Executing Test Organization (ETO).
That same summer Dr. Donald J. Malloy was appointed as the GBSD ETO lead with responsibility for standing up a team of technical experts from across the AFTC Enterprise to support GBSD DT&E efforts and the ICBM CTF at Hill AFB.
“I was honored and humbled the Air Force allowed me to lead efforts to stand up a team of subject matter experts [SME] from across the enterprise to support DT&E for a total system replacement of MMIII with enhanced accuracy and terminal survivability to ensure ICBM warfighting edge in all environments and to address new threats out to 2075,” Malloy said. The enterprise team includes cybersecurity, physical security, command and control, and communications SMEs from the 96th Test Wing at Eglin AFB to support future DT&E of flexible targeting and survivable two-way communications for pre-, trans-, and post-attack launch. To support DT&E of the enhanced accuracy requirements for GBSD, Dr. Malloy also brought in navigation and guidance system SMEs from the 704th Test Group at Holloman Air Force Base.
“AFTC SMEs in AEDC’s Space & Missile CTF at Arnold Air Force Base and at Eglin and Holloman AFBs will continue to provide reach back support to the CTF at Hill after it reaches full operational capability. That reach back includes support for testing at AFTC locations and continued development of technical innovation and cost and risk reduction initiatives necessary for the CTF and the U.S. Air Force to make informed, timely, and independent assessments,” Malloy added.
AEDC support for ICBMs and associated subsystems has grown in response to reevaluations by Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Air Force Materiel Command, Air Force Nuclear Weapon Center (AFNWC), AFTC and AEDC of the risk associated with modernizing and extending the life of the legacy MMIII ICBM weapon system while GBSD is being developed. Soon after the reviews were completed, AFTC was assigned as the LDTO for MMIII Modernization and Life Extension Programs (MLEP), and AEDC was assigned as the ETO for this effort in addition to the work already being done for GBSD. Lt. Col. Jason Armstrong and Capt. Hedison Doe were assigned responsibility for leading the MMIII MLEP DT&E campaign.
“We are looking at AFTC’s first ICBM-focused CTF,” Doe said. “The work AEDC is doing touches every aspect of the missile system, requiring a broad spectrum of technical expertise. The expectation for the technical breadth needed to timely execute these crucial programs along overlapping development cycles is critical and requires a special blend of both test expertise and ICBM system expertise to make this CTF successful.”
Robert Lamb, the ICBM CTF Chief, explained what a CTF is and the importance of this organization at Hill AFB.
“A CTF is an integrated test and evaluation product team that is empowered to evaluate a weapon system and/or related hardware and software. At Hill AFB, we co-located our team next to the program office teams at one primary site; integrating our efforts in a manner to execute combined test planning, provisioning, execution and data acquisition while maintaining independent analysis and reporting,” he said.
The LGM-30 MMIII is the currently-fielded, land-based leg of the strategic nuclear triad, complementing air-based strategic bombers and sea-based submarine launched ballistic missiles. The launch systems and weapon system physical infrastructure being used for MMIII today first became operational in the mid-1960s. While certain components and subsystems have been upgraded over the years, including a transition to the MMIII configuration in the 1970s, most of the fundamental infrastructure in use today is original and has supported more than 50 years of continuous operation. The MMIII flight systems in use today were fielded in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Glen Lazalier, a senior subject matter expert for the GBSD LDTO/ETO, stated, “The MMIII has served admirably in assuring that no adversary dared to launch a nuclear attack against the USA. However, it is time to develop and deploy a new state-of-the-art ICBM that will ensure that future generations will enjoy the same protection that I, my children, and grandchildren have enjoyed.”
While all facets of DT&E for GBSD and MMIII will be steered by the ICBM CTF, coordination between the CTF and key stakeholders including the ICBM Program Office, users, and the Operational Test Organization personnel will be ever present. The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Command (AFOTEC), will lead the operational test efforts when DT&E has been completed.
The ICBM CTF includes AEDC MMIII and GBSD military, DOD civilian staff, and contractor personnel from AEDC Technical and Management Advisory Services (TMAS) contractors. The ICBM CTF team members at Hill AFB work alongside the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center (AFNWC) ICBM Systems Directorate (ICBMSD), the GBSD System Program Office and AFOTEC test team members. Staffing for AEDC expanded responsibilities in the ICBM leg of the nuclear triad will continue to grow over the next four years and will include a remote operating location at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, as GBSD matures, in future years.