The U.S. Sentinel Program is grappling with an array of unexpected challenges in developing its future intercontinental missile.
Concerns over Sentinel Program
Significant worries are growing among the top ranks of the U.S. Air Force regarding the progress of the Sentinel Program. Frank Kendall, the Secretary for the U.S. Air Force, voiced these concerns publically. Adding to the irony, he lacks the authority to oversee the program due to his previous involvement with Northrop Grumman.
The Role of Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman, Kendall’s former association, is tasked with the management of the Sentinel Program as well as the forthcoming strategic bomber, the B-21 Raider.
Ambitions of the Sentinel Program
The ultimate goal of the Sentinel Program is to engineer a novel intercontinental missile, commissioned to supplant the LGM-30 Minuteman III by the end of the current decade. The program’s scope extends beyond missile construction, encompassing other initiatives such as designing a vehicle for re-entry that will transport the W87-1 nuclear warhead, constructing silos underground and formulating a novel command and control system.
The program isn’t just the purview of Northrop Grumman. Other organizations are also involved including Lockheed Martin, Textron Systems, L3Harris, HDT Global, Kratos Defence and Security Solutions, Honeywell, General Dynamics, Collins Aerospace, Clark Construction, Bechtel, and Aerojet Rocketdyne.
Financial Aspects of the Sentinel Program
The program’s worth was initially pegged at .3 billion but estimations point towards costs escalating to a staggering billion in total.
Setbacks in Sentinel Program
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), has identified a range of setbacks including persistent staff shortages, supply chain disruptions, and software obstacles that are slowing down the Sentinel Program’s progress. It’s projected that these setbacks could push back the launch of the new missile by a year at least.
Progress in Other Nations
While the U.S. encounters difficulties in its missile development, other nations continue to advance their nuclear capacities. Russia, for instance, has declared the commissioning of its new intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-28 Sarmat. Simultaneously, China continues to expand its nuclear arsenal significantly.