Hoeven: Minot Air Force Base Helicopter Replacement, Nuclear Modernization Programs on Track

WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee this week, Senator John Hoeven confirmed with Air Force leaders that modernization efforts are on track for nuclear forces based at the Minot Air Force Base. Hoeven outlined the importance of modernization efforts in ensuring the U.S. continues to have an effective nuclear deterrent with Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown. Secretary Kendall and General Brown confirmed to Hoeven that these efforts are on track, including the procurement of MH-139 Grey Wolf helicopters to secure the missile fields and replacement missiles for the B-52 and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

“We’ve worked hard through the Appropriations Committee and the annual NDAA legislation to ensure the Department of Defense has the resources and authority it needs to keep the modernization of our nuclear forces, including the ICBM, bomber and helicopter upgrades for Minot, on track,” said Hoeven. “I appreciate Secretary Kendall and General Brown for working with us to ensure our nation continues to have a credible nuclear deterrent for years to come." 

Specifically, Hoeven discussed the need to continue advancing:

  • Procurement of MH-139 Grey Wolf helicopters to replace the Vietnam-era UH-1N Huey helicopters, which are currently used to secure Minot’s missile silos.
    • Hoeven has been pressing the Air Force to secure FAA certification for the aircraft. The issue is now being resolved, allowing procurement of the aircraft to move forward.
    • Minot is currently scheduled to begin receiving the new helicopters in Fiscal Year (FY) 2027.
  • Upgrades to the B-52, including the new engine program.
    • The engine is currently in development, with prototyping to begin in FY2023. The Air Force will begin installing new engines on the B-52s in FY2027.
  • The new Long Range Stand Off (LRSO) missile to replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) carried on the B-52.
    • LRSO will enter into operations, including on the B-52, in approximately FY2029.
  • The new Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), also known as Sentinel, which will replace the Minuteman III ICBM.
    • Hoeven worked to include language in the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to prohibit cuts to the ICBM force.
    • The Air Force will begin fielding the Sentinel in FY2026.