Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin and Rockwell Collins are to upgrade a system enabling aircraft to control the ground launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Air Force announced this week.
U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command said the two contacts are for three years and worth $81 million each.
"The Airborne Launch Control System provides the strategic capability of survivable airborne command and control for the Air Force's fleet of ICBMs," said Col. Scott Jones, ICBM Systems director at the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center. "The new system will be a timely replacement of the legacy system and provide continued ICBM airborne command-and-control capability through 2075."
The awards to Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Rockwell Collins begin a design competition for upgrading the nuclear command-and-control mission system, which allows for the launch of ICBMs through commands from Navy's E-6B Mercury aircraft. The Minuteman III and future Ground Based Strategic Deterrent ICBMs require an alternate launch control capability in case of launch interference to ground-based facilities.
The current Airborne Launch Control System provides this capability for Minuteman missiles through 1960s-era radio equipment at each of 450 Air Force ICBM launch facilities and on Mercury aircraft.
"We are developing a modular system that can be easily upgraded to address new technologies and threats as they emerge," said Maj. Gen. Scott Jansson, commander of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center and program executive officer for strategic systems.
The Air Force said it plans fielding of the new system by 2024.