Key Navy Official Calls for Joint Strategic-Missile Work with Air Force

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Global Security Newswire Staff
June 17, 2014, 9:26 a.m.

A key Navy lead­er said his ser­vice should co­oper­ate with the Air Force on mod­ern­iz­ing stra­tegic mis­siles to cut costs.

Vice Adm. Terry Be­ne­dict, dir­ect­or of the Navy’s Stra­tegic Sys­tems Pro­gram, in a break­fast speech last week said, “In the past, it’s been, ‘the Navy designs [sub­mar­ine-launched bal­list­ic mis­siles], the Air Force designs [in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic mis­siles], and nev­er shall they talk,’” Break­ing De­fense re­por­ted. “I’m try­ing to break down those walls. … We should be re­quired to talk at the design and de­vel­op­ment phase.”

Be­ne­dict said NASA’s de­cision to end its Space Shuttle pro­gram has had a huge im­pact on the do­mest­ic rock­et-en­gine in­dustry be­cause the space agency was the biggest pur­chaser of sol­id-fuel rock­et boost­ers, which are also used in the Navy’s Tri­dent nuc­le­ar-tipped bal­list­ic mis­siles. As a res­ult, in­dustry prices have ris­en.

The vice ad­mir­al said if the Navy is un­able to per­suade NASA to keep pur­chas­ing sol­id-fuel boost­ers for oth­er space pro­grams it could try to con­vince the Air Force to con­tin­ue us­ing such boost­ers in its up­dated land-based mis­sile force. The Navy can­not switch to a li­quid-fuel mod­el for its mis­siles be­cause the pro­pel­lant is not safe with­in the nar­row con­fines of a sub­mar­ine, ac­cord­ing to the on­line de­fense magazine.

The Air Force is ex­pec­ted by the end of the month to wrap up an “ana­lys­is of al­tern­at­ives” for main­tain­ing a fu­ture ICBM cap­ab­il­ity. The ser­vice has said it will look to “buy the most eco­nom­ic­al and en­dur­ing op­tion” for each com­pon­ent of its up­dated land-based stra­tegic mis­sile.

Be­ne­dict said he would like to see the de­vel­op­ment of a rock­et “pro­pel­lant mix that uses com­mon con­stitu­ents, so that we can get the cost ad­vant­age of bulk buys, and then mix them po­ten­tially in slightly dif­fer­ent for­mu­la­tions [for each user].”

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