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Air Force Gives Missile Project Timeline, Details; Says Changes Possible

The 1970s-era Minuteman III Missiles will be replaced in the next few years by the Sentinel Intercontinental Ballistic Missile system, which the Air Force describes as a more cost-effective option.

According to officials at the Air Force Real Estate Meetings in Kimball and Banner counties, the Minuteman III was built for 10 years of service, but it has been on alert for 50 years and is aging and cost-prohibitive to operate.

The Sentinel: Officially known as LGM-35A Sentinel, it will be operational until 2075, making our "nation stronger and more secure," the Air Force states.

Col. Catherine Barrington, commander of the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, said that the name Sentinel reflects what the airmen do: "Stand watch, on alert, and guard your country." In a release on April 5, the Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall, approved the system and said, "All the time, the Department of the Air Force has kept the watch; always vigilant and ready. The name Sentinel recognizes the mindset that thousands of Airmen, past and present, have brought to the deterrence mission and will serve as a reminder for those who operate, secure, and maintain this system in the future about the disciple and responsibility their duty entails."

The design of the Sentinel weapons system is not final but it is being tested at Vanderburg Space Force Base in California. The ICBM Sentinel was preceded by the Minuteman, Peacekeeper, Titan and Atlas.

It should be noted that the Air Force repeated this over and over again at the recent Real Estate Town Hall meetings: "All information is pre-decisional and may change."

By the end of the week. Col. Catherine Barrington, commander of the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, will have conducted the Real Estate Town Hall meetings throughout the tri-state area of Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado. Col. Barrington was joined in Kimball by Russell Bartholomew, Air Force Nuclear Weapon Center; Col. Chris Stoppel, Air Force Civil Engineer Center; Lt. Col. Eric Green, Air Force Global Strike Command; Taylor Walton, Air Force Nuclear Weapon Center; and Matt Dillow, Northrop Grumman.

The project will affect the 15 missile alert facilities. Eight of those facilities will be "made like new," and the specifics of the remaining seven missile alert facilities have not been determined. In addition, the GBSD project includes replacing and modernizing the 150 launch facilities and 18 communication towers. The project will span 2,500 miles, 60,600 acres, and 5,800 parcels of land.

An Air Force goal with these meeting is to be proactive and "identify all concerns and to be good partners." Landowners will be dealing with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to negotiate transactions. The Air Force will need a temporary right to access and construct, along with re-use of existing utility easements; there will also be new easements and tower sites.

The tentative locations for the 300-foot towers include one in Kimball County and four in Banner County, and towers require a five-acre site.

While the meeting was explicitly for landowners who might be affected by the proposed GBSD project, the Air Force shared information on other topics. These included project schedule, the Environmental Impact Statement, and the WorkForce Hub.

Here's the monthly 2022 schedule for the Sentinel:

In June, the Army Corp of Engineers obtains Right of Entries. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement will occur in July, followed in July and August the Environmental Impact Statement Comment Period, and the EIS Public Hearings will be in August.

In 2024, the Workforce Hub will start construction, by 2025 the workforce will begin, and by 2026, heavy construction will start.

While rumors persisted about the workforce, the Air Force explained that outside of Kimball, one workforce hub will house 2,500-3,000 employees. The workforce hub will be in place for 3-5 years, and employees will operate in four lay-downs or staging areas, including Kimball, Sidney, Albin, Wyo., and Stoneham, Colo.

The security clearance employees housed in the workforce hub area usually work 10-hour days, six days a week for periods of 6-8 weeks at a time, then return to their home for two weeks. The electricians, plumbers, welders and other skilled workers will have bus service to their employment sites.

The Sentinel will replace the 400 Minuteman III operating at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo., Malmstrom AFR in Montana, and Minor AFB in North Dakota.

The Air Force, to ease community, says that both the Minuteman III and Sentinel weapon systems "using infrastructure at current locations will allow the systems to continue meeting all nuclear surety and safety standards during the transition period."

The Air Force Sentinel hotline is 307-773-3400, and the website is at afgsc.af.mil/LGM-35A-Sentinel/

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