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The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded Northrop Grumman a $287m Propulsion Subsystem Support Contract (PSSC) 2.0 contract for the Minuteman III missile system.

Under the base contract, Northrop will provide engineering services for the system’s sustainment.

The contract has a ceiling value of $2.3bn for more than 18 and a half years and includes options.

It supports USAF’s Minuteman III Systems Directorate located at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, US.

The Minuteman III is a long-range, solid-fuel, three-stage intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can carry single or multiple nuclear warheads.

It is being used by the US Air Force Combat Command.

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By GlobalData

The missile is powered by three solid-fuel rocket engines and weighs 36,030kg. It has a range of more than 5,218nm and a speed of 24,000km/h at burnout.

Northrop Grumman propulsion systems vice-president Charlie Precourt said: “Northrop Grumman’s selection for PSSC 2.0, along with our industry partners, allows us to offer the Minuteman III Systems Directorate unmatched expertise in maintaining our current nuclear deterrence capabilities.

“We are proud of our continuing role as an integral part of the ICBM enterprise.”

Originally manufactured in 1970, the missile underwent multiple refurbishments to ensure viability.

Northrop noted that the Minuteman III ICBM ‘must remain on alert and ready’ until the next decade.

In February this year, Northrop test-launched unarmed Minuteman III ICBM equipped with a test re-entry vehicle.

Currently, the company is addressing sustainment challenges of the missile propulsion system, including material obsolescence, associated hardware, as well as propellant ageing surveillance testing and analysis.

In September last year, USAF awarded Northrop Grumman a $13.3bn nuclear missile contract to modernise the ICBM system, marking the next phase of the GBSD programme.