USAF commits $81 million to modernize missile launch control system

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah. The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has awarded Lockheed Martin a contract worth $81 million for Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction (TMRR) as the USAF seeks to replace the aging Airborne Launch Control System aboard the E-6B Mercury Airborne Command Post.

Under the terms of the contract, Lockheed Martin will conduct studies for TMRR and produce a comprehensive design and prototype of the new ALCS-R system. Defense communications firm L3 Technologies will partner with Lockheed Martin on this effort; L3 is slated to lead the development of the secure communications architecture for ALCS-R.

The Air Force's overall modernization plan for the ALCS includes upgraded radios, launch control systems, and cryptographic devices; the new system will be ruggedized and hardened and will implemente state-of-the-art cybersecurity techniques to protect the system from attack. Lockheed Martin and USAF expect that the new system will be upgradeable through 2075.

The Airborne Launch Control System-Replacement (ALCS-R) program -- slated for fielding by 2024 -- is intended to provide a survivable alternate launch capability for the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBMs). ALCS-R will also enable users to command and control the future Ground Based Strategic Deterrent missile system, which is anticipated to replace the Minuteman III missiles starting in the late 2020s.