The US Air Force (USAF) has announced the release of the draft Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) test programme environmental assessment.

In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the study was conducted to assess the possible environmental effects of the programme’s implementation.

It also includes the analysis of overseas environmental impacts.

Activities related to the test programme would be conducted in the US primarily at Hill Air Force Base (AFB) in Utah and Vandenberg AFB in California.

Tests include conducting missile launches from Vandenberg AFB, flights over the Pacific Ocean in the Western Test Range and other support activities that would take place at US Army Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

The USAF noted that the environmental assessment also includes the proposed GBSD Formal Training Unit/Schoolhouse analysis at Vandenberg AFB.

It is expected that the GBSD and Minuteman III test demonstrations could take place at US Army Garrison–Kwajalein Atoll and in the Republic of the Marshall Islands territorial waters.

The Draft GBSD Test Programme environmental assessment and Draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) are available for public comment until 22 March.

According to USAF, the GBSD programme is aimed at modernising the ageing US land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Minuteman III system.

Built by Boeing, the LGM-30 Minuteman III ICBM is used by the USAF Combat Command.

It is a vital component of the US strategic deterrent forces. The inventory is controlled by the Air Force Global Strike Command.

The USAF plans to modernise the ‘land-based leg of the nuclear triad, recapitalising its ICBM fleet’.

It also plans to upgrade the weapon system technology, supporting infrastructure, as well as command and control functions of ICBM.

In September, the USAF awarded Northrop Grumman a $13.3bn engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract for the GBSD ICBM system.