Pentagon estimates cost of new nuclear missiles at $95.8B

The Pentagon has raised to $95.8 billion the estimated cost of fielding a new fleet of land-based nuclear missiles to replace the Minuteman 3 arsenal that has operated continuously for 50 years

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon has raised to $95.8 billion the estimated cost of fielding a new fleet of land-based nuclear missiles to replace the Minuteman 3 arsenal that has operated continuously for 50 years, officials said Monday.

The estimate is up about $10 billion from four years ago.

The weapons, known as intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, are intended as part of a near-total replacement of the American nuclear force over the next few decades at a total cost of more than $1.2 trillion.

Some, including former Defense Secretary William J. Perry, argue that U.S. national security can be ensured without ICBMs, but the Pentagon says they are vital to deterring war. The Trump administration affirmed its commitment to fielding a new generation of ICBMs in a 2018 review of nuclear policy.

The U.S. also is building a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines to replace the current Ohio-class strategic subs; a new long-range nuclear-capable bomber to replace the B-2 stealth aircraft; a next-generation air-launched nuclear cruise missile; and a new nuclear command and communications system. It also is working on updated warheads, including an ICBM warhead replacement for an estimated $14.8 billion.

The Pentagon's $95.8 billion cost estimate for the Minuteman replacement was first reported by Bloomberg News. The Pentagon provided the estimate to Congress last month but had, until Monday, refused to release it publicly.

Last month the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $13.3 billion contract for engineering and manufacturing development of the new missiles. The total “lifecycle” cost, including operating and sustaining the missiles over their expected lifetime into the 2070s, is set at $263.9 billion.