The US Air Force (USAF) is calling for bids from potential suppliers for its long-range standoff (LRSO) nuclear cruise missile and ground based strategic deterrent (GBSD) intercontinental ballistic missile weapon system programmes.

A maximum of two contracts will be awarded for each programme separately in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2017.

The LRSO weapon will be developed to replace the ageing AGM-86B air-launched cruise missile, while GBSD will replace the LGM-30 Minuteman III ICBM.

"The LRSO will be a reliable, flexible, long-ranging, and survivable weapon system to complement the nuclear triad."

The USAF will begin fielding LRSO by 2030, with plans to install GBSD in the late 2020s.

USAF Global Strike Command commander general Robin Rand said: “The LRSO will be a reliable, flexible, long-ranging, and survivable weapon system to complement the nuclear triad.

“LRSO will ensure the bomber force can continue to hold high-value targets at risk in an evolving threat environment, to include targets within an area-denial environment.”

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The USAF is aimed at developing and delivering an integrated weapon system, including launch and command and control segments.

The new GBSD weapon system will be in compliance with existing national requirements and it has the adaptability and flexibility to affordably address changing technology and threat environments through 2075.

The LRSO weapon system is said to be a cost-effective force multiplier for B-52, B-2 Spirit and B-21 aircraft.

USAF Nuclear Weapons Center commander major general Scott Jansson said: “LRSO is a critical element of the United States’ nuclear deterrence strategy.

“Releasing this solicitation is a critical step toward affordably recapitalising the aging air leg of the nuclear triad.”