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Air Force Eyes Hypersonic Modifications to ICBM Arsenal; Lt. Col. Robert Carver Quoted

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The U.S. Air Force is planning to update its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) to include elements such as thermal protection systems to support hypersonic speeds, Aviation Week reported Tuesday.

In a retracted request for information obtained by the publication, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center announced plans to develop updated ICBMs with an open-systems framework as part of the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) initiative.

Other potential ICBM system modifications include low-fidelity sensor technology, navigation aids, microelectronics systems, artificial intelligence-driven hardware and software and ground-station security capabilities.

The Air Force previously announced its intent to award the GBSD contract to Northrop Grumman, which currently serves as the sole bidder for the delivery of over 600 ICBMs to the service branch.

Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a spokesman for the Department of Defense (DoD), said in an email that the department intends to comply with international regulations and will not develop “nuclear-capable hypersonic weapons.”

“There are common technology needs between the nuclear enterprise and hypersonic systems. Particularly in the area of high-temperature materials, we typically collaborate on the development of advanced dual-use materials technology,” he noted.

Carver’s comments come after the DoD launched three prototyping efforts for the hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) designed for intermediate-range targets.