With all the celebrating over, let me elaborate on the Minuteman III missile. The Minuteman III was developed in the late 1960s as a variant of the original Minuteman I ICBM which was one of the U.S. responses to the supposed "missile gap", where the Soviet Union had a supposed advantage in nuclear armed ICBMs. The Minuteman III's development began in 1964 and the Minuteman III went operational around 1971, with the 741st Strategic Missile Wing at Minot AFB in North Dakota. The Minuteman III was the first ballistic missile to carry MIRVs, usually carrying three W62 nuclear warheads each with a yield of 170kt (KiloTons) or about 170,000 tons of TNT. With the all of the arms limitation treaties being signed in the last 20 years since the downfall of the Soviet Union (START II, SORT, New START, etc.) the United States has unilaterally removed MIRVs from the Minuteman III, as of 2011 the U.S. has only 1 nuclear warhead on it's land based ICBM force.
Now, there are a few problems with the development of a new ICBM, 1. The anti-nuclear crowd will scream bloody murder that the U.S. is restarting the Cold War. 2. All the skills necessary to produce a ICBM have deteriorated since we have not produced a ICBM since the the LGM-118 Peacemaker in 1970s and 1980s. 3. We have not developed a new nuclear warhead since the W88 for the Peacekeeper in the late 1980s. 4. As I said before in problem 2 all the skills necessary to produce an ICBM have deteriorated thus, the producer would have to start from scratch to build an ICBM which would be quite expense and, the Pentagon recently has been having a rash of projects overshooting their budget, and are not eager to have another boondoggle like the F-35 5. The President recently signed the New START treaty that limits Russia and the U.S. to a total of 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads a piece.
With the problems laid out allow me to give you the answers. 1. Ignore the anti-nuclear crowd and hope for the best. 2. Well, there is not really a solution for this problem except to just do the job (and hope Congress doesn't cancel the program if the first missile crashes). 3. The answer is relatively simple to this question, have Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California go into overdrive to produce a new ICBM warhead and a new nuclear gravity bomb to replace the aging B61. 4. If the program becomes overly expense, in the contract have a clause that forces the contractor to pay for 10 to 50% of the program depending on the size of the overrun. 5. Pull out NOW, New START is meaningless. New START covers only strategic nuclear warheads and the Russians have said they are not to eager to regulate tactical nukes.
Thats not all, the Russians have said that if they feel threatened by troop movements by the U.S. or NATO or even future plans, they will pull out of New START. Finally, any nuclear limitation treaty is a moot point without China signing it due to the fact that China is third place in total amount of nuclear warheads with around 400 nukes and, climbing.
Whatever path is taken by the American Government we must choose quickly because our nuclear deterrent is aging rapidly and, at some point in the near future it will collapse because there is nothing more we can do to extend the lifetime of our present nuclear force. Thus, Congress and the President must begin a nuclear modernization program within the next 4 years or in the near future face a crisis never before imagined by any American since the 1950s.....a total lack of a nuclear deterrent.
Photo Credit: USAF/Wikipedia