The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded Northrop Grumman a $13.3bn engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system.

According to the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, this work will continue for 8.5 years. Activities will involve design, qualification, testing and evaluation and nuclear certification of the weapons system.

Northrop Grumman CEO and president Kathy Warden said: “Our nation is facing a rapidly evolving threat environment and protecting our citizens with a modern strategic deterrent capability has never been more critical.

“With more than 65 years of technical leadership on every ICBM system, our nationwide team is honoured and committed to continuing our partnership with the US Air Force to deliver a safe, secure and effective system that will contribute to global stability for years to come.”

Work will be conducted at Northrop Grumman GBSD facilities in Roy and Promontory, Utah along with the other major Northrop Grumman locations in the US.

The team includes Aerojet Rocketdyne, Bechtel, Clark Construction, Collins Aerospace, General Dynamics, HDT Global, Honeywell, Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, Textron Systems and other small and medium-sized companies.

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The GBSD programme will see the involvement of more than 10,000 people across the country.

Following the conclusion of the EMD phase, the Northrop Grumman team will begin manufacturing and supplying modern, fully integrated weapon system.

The USAF has planned the initial operational capability by 2029.

Air Force Global Strike Command commander general Tim Ray said: “We are leveraging stable requirements, modern technology, we own the technical baseline, and have a modular design to keep the program rapid, relevant and affordable.

“The increased accuracy, extended range and improved reliability will provide the US a broader array of options to address unforeseen contingencies, giving us the edge necessary to compete and win against any adversary.”

Last month, Northrop Grumman completed the first ground test of a new rocket motor for the United Launch Alliance (ULA), a US-based spacecraft launch service provider.