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Status of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Modernization Program

NSIAD-85-78: Published: Jul 8, 1985. Publicly Released: Jul 8, 1985.

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GAO reviewed various aspects of the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) modernization program, focusing on: (1) cost, performance, and system development issues pertaining to the Peacekeeper missile system; and (2) progress made by the Air Force in developing the small ICBM and its survivable basing modes.

GAO found that the ICBM modernization program is progressing as planned with no major deviations to cost, schedule, or performance milestones. GAO also found that, for the small ICBM system: (1) life-cycle costs will vary between $43 billion and $49 billion, depending on the survivability of the chosen basing mode; (2) a large number of personnel will be required to operate and maintain the system; (3) the total life-cycle costs cannot be accurately estimated until basing and force strength decisions are made; (4) a number of engineering and technological challenges must be overcome in developing a mobile basing mode; (5) it may be necessary to deploy the missile in more than one basing mode to ensure operational effectiveness; and (6) securing sufficient suitable land for the deployment of a hard mobile-based missile will be difficult. In addition, GAO found that, for the Peacekeeper program: (1) a continuing concern is the failure of an extendable rocket motor nozzle that greatly enhances flight performance; (2) the accuracy achieved by the missile in initial test flights has greatly exceeded the operational requirement; (3) the final four development test flights will be flown after initial deployment; (4) the total estimated cost is now $21.6 billion although congressional appropriations decisions will impact unit and program cost estimates; and (5) the first 10 missiles are scheduled to be deployed in December 1986.

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