Space and astronomy news and information for the American Southwest. Coverage includes Vandenberg AFB rocket and missile launches.

Minuteman III Communications Improved

Northrop Grumman News Release

2004 October 20

CLEARFIELD, Utah -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) reached a critical milestone this fall when the Air Force officially declared initial operational capability for a new emergency communications system in the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch control centers.

The company's role is to modernize the nation's fleet of Minuteman III ICBMs, and this new communications system will significantly improve the link between the command authorities -- most notably the President of the U.S. and U.S. Strategic Command combatant commanders -- and the crews manning the silos in the event a missile should need to be launched.

By December 2005, all launch control centers will receive the upgraded system known as Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network, or MEECN.

Each launch-control center is manned by a crew on 24-hour alert, and responsible for Minuteman III missiles dispersed in silos that are interconnected through an underground system of hardened cables. The Minuteman III ICBM weapon system is the land-based element of the nation's strategic nuclear deterrent force.

The MEECN program replaces communications systems that are obsolete or too expensive to maintain, while ensuring a highly survivable system through the year 2020. While the system receives extremely-high frequency and very-low frequency signals from ground stations, orbiting aircraft, and satellite nodes, the most significant enhancement for the warfighter is the connection to the Milstar satellite system. Milstar is a joint-service satellite communications system in operation since 1997 that provides secure, jam-resistant, worldwide communications to meet essential wartime requirements for high-priority military users. Connection to Milstar will ensure that highly reliable, instantaneous, two-way communication exists between the centers and the commander-in-chief.

"Adding the new Milstar capability is very important to the warfighter, as it not only allows better communication with the commander-in-chief, but enhances coordination efforts between our nation's nuclear forces in the air, sea and on land," said John Clay, Northrop Grumman vice president and program manager for the ICBM Prime Integration Program. "Meeting this milestone was critical in that other key modernization efforts rely on its deployment. We are on track to bring about other modernization programs that will keep the Minuteman III system alert and ready through 2020."

The Boeing Company is leading the installation team, Raytheon Corporation is the primary source for the production of the two radios and General Dynamics provided upgrades to the hardware and software in the launch control centers. "Raytheon, Boeing and General Dynamics have done outstanding work to fulfill their commitment to this program on schedule and on cost," added Clay.

Northrop Grumman is the Air Force's ICBM prime integration contractor charged with maintaining readiness of the United States' ICBM weapon system through 2020. In addition to sustaining and maintaining the force, Northrop Grumman manages more than 10 modernization efforts to maintain viability of our nation's ICBM fleet. This 15-year program, which began in December 1997, is currently valued at $4.5 billion with a total projected value of $6 billion. Northrop Grumman manages a team consisting of four principal teammates and more than 20 subcontractors.

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