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Video Details

More than 10,000 people provide up to 400 on-alert, combat-ready LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, in hardened silos across five states.

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles

Complicate enemy attack & capable of providing prompt, overwhelming response.

LGM-30G Minuteman III

Up to 400 Minuteman III missiles make up the most responsive leg of the nuclear triad. America's ICBM force has remained on continuous, around-the-clock alert since 1959. The Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program will begin the replacement of Minuteman III and modernization of the 450 ICBM launch facilities in 2029.

LGM-30G Minuteman III missile

The Minuteman is a strategic weapon system using a ballistic missile of intercontinental range. Missiles are dispersed in hardened silos to protect against attack and connected to an underground launch control center through a system of hardened cables. Launch crews, consisting of two officers, perform around-the-clock alerts in the launch control center.

A variety of communication systems provide the president and secretary of defense with highly reliable, virtually instantaneous direct contact with each launch crew. Should command capability be lost between the launch control center and remote missile launch facilities, specially configured E-6B airborne launch control center aircraft automatically assume command and control of the isolated missile or missiles. Fully qualified airborne missile combat crews aboard airborne launch control center aircraft would execute the president's orders.

The Minuteman weapon system was conceived in the late 1950s and Minuteman I was deployed in the early 1960s. Minuteman was a revolutionary concept and an extraordinary technical achievement. Both the missile and basing components incorporated significant advances beyond the relatively slow-reacting, liquid-fueled, remotely controlled intercontinental ballistic missiles of the previous generation. From the beginning, Minuteman missiles have provided a quick-reacting, inertially guided, highly survivable component to America's strategic deterrent program. Minuteman's maintenance concept capitalizes on high reliability and a "remove and replace" approach to achieve a near 100% alert rate.

Through state-of-the-art improvements, the Minuteman system has evolved to meet new challenges and assume new missions. Modernization programs have resulted in new versions of the missile, expanded targeting options, and improved accuracy and survivability. Today's Minuteman weapon system is the product of almost 60 years of continuous enhancement.

The current ICBM force consists of Minuteman III missiles located at the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming; the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana; and the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.

  • Primary Function: Intercontinental Ballistic Missle

  • Contractor: Boeing Co.

  • Weight: 79,432 pounds / 36,030 kilograms

  • Diameter: 5.5 feet / 1.67 meters

  • Date Deployed: June 1970, production cessation: December 1978

  • Power Plant: Three solid-propellant rocket motors

    First Stage: ATK refurbished M55A1 | Second Stage: ATK refurbished SR-19 | Third Stage: ATK refurbished SR-73

  • Range: 6,000+ miles / 5,218 nautical miles

  • Speed: ~15,000 mph / Mach 23 or 24,000 kph at burnout

  • Ceiling: 700 miles / 1,120 kilometers

  • Inventory: Active Force - 406 | Reserve - 0 | Air National Guard - 0

  • Technologies Chemical Systems Division Thrust:

    First Stage: 203,158 pounds | Second Stage: 60,793 pounds | Third Stage: 35,086 pounds

Current as of April 2017

Defense Secretary Mark Esper

Defense Secretary

Dr. Mark T. Esper

"The nuclear strategic triad is the most important part of our military. It's key to our nation's defense. It provides that strategic nuclear deterrent that we depend on day after day — that we've depended on decade after decade."



Video Details

Ballistic missile submarines or “boomers” are undetectable platforms for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. They are on constant patrol with enough firepower to make just one boomer the sixth most powerful nuclear power in the world.

Ballistic Missile Submarines

Assure we can strike at any time, anywhere, even after a surprise attack. This survivability gives national leadership greater flexibility in the decision-making process.

Ohio-Class Ballistic Missile Submarines - SSBN

Fourteen Ohio-class SSBNs make up the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad. Their stealth design makes finding an SSBN an almost impossible task, giving pause to potential adversaries. The Columbia-class SSBN program will begin to replace the Ohio-class SSBNs starting in the early 2030s.

Ohio-Class Ballistic Missile Submarine

The Navy's ballistic missile submarines, often referred to as “boomers,” serve as an undetectable launch platform for missiles. They are designed specifically for stealth and the precise delivery of nuclear warheads.

Each of the 14 Ohio-class SSBNs can carry up to 20 submarine-launched ballistic missiles with multiple, independently targeted warheads. The ballistic missile submarine's strategic weapon is the Trident II D5 missile, which provides increased range and accuracy over the now out-of-service Trident I C4 missile.

Ballistic missile submarines are specifically designed for extended deterrent patrols. To decrease the amount of time required for replenishment and maintenance, Ohio-class submarines have three large-diameter logistics hatches that allow sailors to rapidly transfer supply pallets, equipment replacement modules and machinery components, thereby increasing their operational availability.

The Ohio-class design allows the submarines to operate for 15 or more years between major overhauls. On average, the submarines spend 77 days at sea followed by 35 days in port for maintenance. Each submarine has two crews, Blue and Gold, which alternate manning the submarines and taking them on patrol. This maximizes the submarine’s strategic availability, reduces the number of submarines required to meet strategic requirements and allows for proper crew training, readiness and morale.

USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730), Bangor, Wash.

USS Alabama (SSBN 731), Bangor, Wash.

USS Alaska (SSBN 732), Kings Bay, Ga.

USS Nevada (SSBN 733), Bangor, Wash.

USS Tennessee (SSBN 734), Kings Bay, Ga.

USS Pennsylvania (SSBN 735), Bangor, Wash.

USS West Virginia (SSBN 736), Kings Bay, Ga.

USS Kentucky (SSBN 737), Bangor, Wash.

USS Maryland (SSBN 738), Kings Bay, Ga.

USS Nebraska (SSBN 739), Bangor, Wash.

USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740), Kings Bay, Ga.

USS Maine (SSBN 741), Bangor, Wash.

USS Wyoming (SSBN 742), Kings Bay, Ga.

USS Louisiana (SSBN 743), Bangor, Wash.

Current as of January 2016

Importance of the Nuclear Triad

For more than six decades, the United States has emphasized the need for a nuclear force that credibly deters adversaries, assures allies and partners, achieves U.S. objectives should deterrence fail and hedges against uncertain threats.

The Fact Sheet




Video Details

America’s bomber fleet provides a range of both conventional and nuclear response options.


Consisting of 46 nuclear-capable B-52H Stratofortress and 20 B-2A Spirit aircraft, the nation's bomber fleet is the most flexible leg of the triad, capable of providing massive firepower in a short time anywhere on the globe, even through the most advanced defenses.

B-52H Stratofortress

The B-52 is a long-range, heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions. It can carry nuclear or precision guided conventional weapons with worldwide precision navigation. The B-52 is slated to be in service beyond 2040.

B-52H Stratofortress

In a conventional conflict, the B-52 can perform strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction, offensive counter-air and maritime operations.

During Desert Storm, B-52s delivered 40 percent of all the weapons dropped by coalition forces. It is highly effective when used for ocean surveillance, and can assist the U.S. Navy in anti-ship and mine-laying operations. Two B-52s, in two hours, can monitor 140,000 square miles (364,000 square kilometers) of ocean surface.

All B-52s can be equipped with two electro-optical viewing sensors, a forward-looking infrared and advanced targeting pods to augment targeting, battle assessment, and flight safety, thus further improving its combat ability.

Pilots wear night vision goggles, or NVG, to enhance their vision during night operations. Night vision goggles provide greater safety during night operations by increasing the pilot's ability to visually clear terrain, to increase the peacetime and combat situational awareness of the aircrew and visually acquire other aircraft.

B-52s are currently upgrading from the Litening Advanced Targeting Pod to the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod. Sniper pods provide improved long-range target detection/identification and continuous stabilized surveillance for all missions, including close air support of ground forces. The pod’s advanced targeting and image processing technology significantly increases the combat effectiveness of the B-52 during day, night and under-the-weather conditions in the attack of ground targets with a variety of standoff weapons (i.e., laser-guided bombs, conventional bombs and GPS-guided weapons).

The use of aerial refueling gives the B-52 a range limited only by crew endurance. It has an unrefueled combat range in excess of 8,800 miles (14,080 kilometers).

For more than 40 years B-52 Stratofortresses have been the backbone of the manned strategic bomber force for the United States. The B-52 is capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory. This includes gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision guided missiles and joint direct attack munitions. Updated with modern technology the B-52 will be capable of delivering the full complement of joint developed weapons and will continue into the 21st century as an important element of our nation's defenses. Current engineering analyses show the B-52's life span to extend beyond the year 2040.

The B-52A first flew in 1954, and the B model entered service in 1955. A total of 744 B-52s were built with the last, a B-52H, delivered in October 1962. The first of 102 B-52H's was delivered to Strategic Air Command in May 1961. The H model can carry up to 20 air launched cruise missiles. In addition, it can carry the conventional cruise missile that was launched in several contingencies during the 1990s and 2000s, starting with Operation Desert Storm and culminating with Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The aircraft's flexibility was evident in Operation Desert Storm and again during Operation Allied Force. B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq's Republican Guard. From Sept. 2 to 3, 1996, two B-52H's struck Baghdad power stations and communications facilities with 13 AGM-86C conventional air launched cruise missiles, or CALCMs, as part of Operation Desert Strike. At that time, this was the longest distance flown for a combat mission involving a 34-hour, 16,000 statute mile round trip from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

In 2001, the B-52 contributed to the success in Operation Enduring Freedom, providing the ability to loiter high above the battlefield and provide close air support through the use of precision guided munitions.

The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs during a night mission.

Only the H model is still in the Air Force inventory. It is assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, and the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, both of which fall under Air Force Global Strike Command; and to the Air Force Reserve Command's 307th Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base.

  • Primary Function: Heavy Bomber

  • Contractor: Boeing Military Airplanes Co.

  • Power Plant: Eight Pratt & Whitney engines TF33-P-3/103 turbofan

  • Thrust: each engine up to 17,000 pounds

  • Wingspan: 185 feet / 56.4 meters

  • Length: 159 feet, 4 inches / 48.5 meters

  • Height: 40 feet, 8 inches / 12.4 meters

  • Weight: ~185,000 pounds / 83,250 kilograms

  • Maximum takeoff weight: 488,000 pounds / 219,600 kilograms

  • Fuel Capacity: 312,1970 pounds / 141,610 kilograms

  • Payload: 70,000 pounds / 31,500 kilogramst

  • Speed: 650 miles per hour / Mach 0.84

  • Range: 8,800 miles / 7,652 nautical miles

  • Ceiling: 50,000 feet / 15,151.5 meters

  • Armament: ~70,000 pounds / 31,500 kilograms mixed ordnance - bombs, mines and missiles (modified to carry air-launched cruise missiles)

  • Crew: Five - aircraft commander, pilot, radar navigator, navigator and electronic warfare officer

  • Unit Cost: $84 million / fiscal 2012 constant dollars

  • Initial Operating Capability: April 1952

  • Inventory: Active Force - 58 | Reserve - 18 | Air National Guard - 0

Current as of September 2014

B-2A Spirit

The B-2 Spirit is a multirole stealth bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear weapons. The B-21 Raider will first supplement, then eventually replace, the B-2 beginning in the mid-2020s.

B-2A Spirit

The B-2 provides the penetrating flexibility and effectiveness inherent in manned bombers. Its low-observable, or "stealth," characteristics give it the unique ability to penetrate an enemy's most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued, and heavily defended, targets. The B-2’s capability to penetrate air defenses and threaten effective retaliation provides a strong, effective deterrent and combat force well into the 21st century.

The revolutionary blending of low-observable technologies with high aerodynamic efficiency and large payload gives the B-2 important advantages over existing bombers. Its low-observability provides it greater freedom of action at high altitudes, thus increasing its range and a better field of view for the aircraft's sensors. Its unrefueled range is approximately 6,000 nautical miles (9,600 kilometers).

The B-2's low observability is derived from a combination of reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic and visual and radar signatures. These signatures make it difficult for sophisticated defensive systems to detect, track and engage the B-2. Many aspects of the low-observability process remain classified; however, the B-2's composite materials, special coatings and flying-wing design all contribute to its "stealthiness."

The B-2 has a crew of two pilots, a pilot in the left seat and mission commander in the right, compared to the B-1B's crew of four and the B-52's crew of five.

The first B-2 was publicly displayed Nov. 22, 1988, when it was rolled out of its hangar at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California. Its first flight was July 17, 1989. The B-2 Combined Test Force, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California, is responsible for flight testing the engineering, manufacturing and development aircraft on the B-2.

Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, is the only operational base for the B-2. The first aircraft, Spirit of Missouri, was delivered Dec. 17, 1993. Depot maintenance responsibility for the B-2 is performed by Air Force contractor support and is managed at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

The combat effectiveness of the B-2 was proved in Operation Allied Force, where it was responsible for destroying 33 percent of all Serbian targets in the first eight weeks, by flying nonstop to Kosovo from its home base in Missouri and back. In support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the B-2 flew one of its longest missions to date from Whiteman to Afghanistan and back. The B-2 completed its first-ever combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying 22 sorties from a forward operating location as well as 27 sorties from Whiteman Air Force Base and releasing more than 1.5 million pounds of munitions. The aircraft received full operational capability status in December 2003. On Feb. 1, 2009, the Air Force's newest command, Air Force Global Strike Command, assumed responsibility for the B-2 from Air Combat Command.

The prime contractor, responsible for overall system design and integration, is Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems Sector. Boeing Military Airplanes Co., Hughes Radar Systems Group, General Electric Aircraft Engine Group and Vought Aircraft Industries Inc., are key members of the aircraft contractor team.

  • Primary Function: Multirole Heavy Bomber

  • Contractor: Northrop Grumman Corp. and Contractor Team:

    • Boeing Military Airplanes Co.
    • Hughes Radar Systems Group
    • General Electric Aircraft Engine Group and Vought Aircraft Industries Inc.
  • Power Plant: Four General Electric F118-GE-100 engines

  • Thrust: 17,300 pounds each engine

  • Wingspan: 172 feet / 52.12 meters

  • Length: 69 feet / 20.9 meters

  • Height: 17 feet / 5.1 meters

  • Weight: 160,000 / 72,575 kilograms

  • Maximum takeoff weight: 336,500 pounds / 152,634 kilograms

  • Fuel Capacity: 167,000 pounds / 75,750 kilograms

  • Payload: 40,000 pounds / 18,144 kilogramst

  • Speed: High subsonic

  • Range: Intercontinental

  • Ceiling: 50,000 feet / 15,240 meters

  • Armament: Conventional or nuclear weapons

  • Crew: Two pilots

  • Unit Cost: Approximately $1.157 billion / fiscal 1998 constant dollars

  • Initial Operating Capability: April 1997

  • Inventory: Active Force - 21 (1 test) | Reserve - 0 | Air National Guard - 0

Current as of September 2015