Minot among sites retiring Minuteman III missiles for new ground based nuclear deterrent

The Air Force is working to set up a new weapons system that will replace the country's aging Minuteman missiles.

Minuteman III missile photo
The 91st Missile Wing’s Missile Maintenance Teams of Minot Air Force Base are responsible for maintenance performed at the launch facility on the top three components of the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Defense. The appearance of department of defense visual information does not imply or constitute endorsement.

MINOT, N.D. — In the early 1960s, Minuteman I intercontinental ballistic missiles began going into underground silos in several areas of the United States, including a missile field around Minot Air Force Base that stretches for several thousand square miles.

Those missiles were soon replaced with Minuteman III ICBMs, and since the early 1970s, those Minuteman III missiles have constituted a major part of the United States' nuclear weapons deterrent.

Now, the Air Force is working to set up a new weapons system — which is simply being called the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent — that will replace the country's aging Minuteman missiles with a new breed of missiles.

Minuteman III Missile
A Minuteman III missile in South Dakota. Special to The Forum.


While they will be new, the replacement missiles will essentially serve the same function as the old missiles, serving as vehicles for the long-range delivery of nuclear warheads.

ICBMs are part of the so-called triad of American nuclear deterrents, the other two being submarine-launched ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons carried on bombers.

Construction of facilities to handle the new missile system at Minot Air Force Base is slated to start in 2029.

Minot is one of three existing missile bases that will be home to the new GBSD system, the others being F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming and Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

Construction of new missile facilities is tentatively scheduled to start at F.E. Warren AFB in 2023 and at Malmstrom AFB in 2026.

Firmer construction schedules will not be set until environmental impact statements are completed for each location.

In September, North Dakota's Congressional delegation announced that the Air Force had awarded Northrop Grumman a $13.3 billion development contract for the GBSD program, which could ultimately cost an estimated $85 billion.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., has said that as a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee he worked to help secure the GBSD funding announced in September.


Hoeven said he also worked to ensure that the Senate National Defense Authorization Act, which was approved last summer, included provisions ensuring that the missile replacement program stays on schedule.

Hoeven described the GBSD as an integral part of modernizing the nation's nuclear forces and he said he and others on the Defense Appropriations Committee look forward to working with Northrop Grumman "to ensure that our nation’s land-based ICBMs, including those stationed at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, are ready and able to protect our nation and deter our enemies."

Hoeven said the Senate National Defense Authorization Act continues authorization for nuclear modernization efforts that support the missions at Minot Air Force Base, including:

  • $1.5 billion in funding authority for the new GBSD program
  • The authorizing of upgrades to the B-52 bomber, including a new engine program
  • A new nuclear cruise missile, the long-range stand off missile, to replace the air-launched cruise missile carried on the B-52 bomber
  • Authorization for new cruise missile warheads
  • Authorization for a replacement helicopter for the current UH-1 helicopters that provide security for ICBM silos, including silos in the Minot area

John MacMartin, president of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce, said that in the Minot area the changeover from Minuteman missiles to a new missile system is expected to involve the removal of 150 Minuteman III missiles from their underground silos and improvements to the silos and related structures before new missiles are placed in the ground.
He said the missile installation work is expected to take place over the course of eight to ten years, with federal spending anticipated to be in the neighborhood of about $10 billion for each of the three Air Force bases affected, including Minot.

"That's to take everything out and put everything back together," MacMartin said.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at
What To Read Next
Get Local