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Air Force Awards 2 Contracts for Upgraded ICBM System

The Air Force on Tuesday awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. and Rockwell Collins contracts worth roughly $80 million each to upgrade a command-and-control system that helps conduct ICBM launches.

The new system would replace the service's Airborne Launch Control System, which gives U.S. Strategic Command the capability to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles from the Navy's E-6B Mercury aircraft, officials said in a release.

The three-year contracts are for technology maturation and risk reduction activities to further culminate "an approved preliminary design and develop a fully functional prototype," according to the Pentagon.

Lockheed received $81 million for its future work, while Rockwell got $76 million, according to the contract announcement.

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The current C2 system -- known as ALCS-R -- works as an alternative to launch Minuteman III missiles in the event main-line comms fail. Officials said the existing backup system works through 1960s-era radio equipment at each of 450 Air Force ICBM launch facilities in the U.S. and through "aging equipment" on the E-6B.

"The new system will be a timely replacement of the legacy system and provide continued ICBM airborne command-and-control capability through 2075," said Col. Scott Jones, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center's ICBM systems director.

Given its longevity, the upgraded C2 would apply to the Minuteman III and the future Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, or GBSD. The GBSD program is set to replace the Minuteman missile system in the late 2020s.

The goal of the center's program office at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is to field the upgraded replacement system by 2024, the release said.

"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, NWC commander and program executive officer for strategic systems.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems will conduct preliminary ALCS-R replacement efforts in Littleton, Colorado, while Rockwell will use its Richardson, Texas, facility.

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