Team Malmstrom first to accomplish missile guidance system replacement
By Airman 1st Class Emerald Ralston, 341st Space Wing Public Affairs Office
/ Published December 12, 2007
MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Missile maintenance Airmen installed the final replacement to the missile guidance system of Malmstrom's Minuteman III fleet Dec. 4, making Malmstrom the first base in Air Force Space Command to finish the replacements at each missile launch facility.
The NS-20 system has been replaced with the NS-50 system through the Guidance Replacement Program. The GRP is managed by the 526th Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles Systems Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and is contracted through the ICBM Prime Integrating Contract.
The NS-20 was the designation given to the original Minuteman III missile guidance system. The MGS performs ground and in-flight functions for the Minuteman III weapon system. Hardware for the system consists of a computer, an inertial measurement unit, cabling, coolant hoses and other supporting hardware.
While on the ground, the MGS communicates to the ground system, responds to commands received from the ground system, and monitors and reports on the health of the missile system.
In flight, the MGS is responsible for guiding and steering the missile to a position in space that corresponds to the desired release point of the reentry vehicle so it will hit within the designated target area, said Capt. Michael Ballak, 510th ICBMSG.
"The primary reason the NS-20 is being replaced is because the electronics have aged, resulting in degraded in-flight reliability," Captain Ballak said. "The NS-50 replaces the aging 1960s vintage NS-20 guidance system electronics with 1990s vintage electronics."
"This system ensures more safety than the NS-20" said Master Sgt. Eric Lang, 341st Maintenance Operations Squadron.
The NS-50 contains modernized electronics that improve not only the in-flight reliability, but also the maintainability--it is more dependable on the ground, simpler to isolate faults, and easier to remove and replace components, Sergeant Lang said.
"There is definitely a benefit to this new system," Sergeant Lang said. "It lasts longer in the field so maintainers don't have to go out as often, so it saves money and time. Any time you have to roll open the door to perform maintenance on the system it takes a lot of work and then a series of tests have to be performed as well. With all the other programs we have going on right now, having to go out fewer times is a huge benefit."
Malmstrom isn't the only one to benefit from this improvement.
"The government, Air Force and the United States of America benefits from the NS-50 modernization of the Minuteman III fleet by ensuring the land-based leg of the strategic triad is ready to be used if required, is less expensive and safer to operate," Captain Ballak said.
While Malmstrom was the first to start and finish the system upgrades, the NS-50 is also being deployed at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.
"F.E. Warren still has two sites left to upgrade with NS-50 MSG systems and Minot has six left," Captain Ballak said. "It is expected that the last NS-50 will replace the last NS-20 at Minot in January or February."
"We try to lead the command in everything we do," Sergeant Lang said.
"Our unit here was really focused on managing the schedule to get this done," said Col. Deborah Kirkhuff, 341st Missile Maintenance Group commander. "Our community here should be proud. This was a base-wide effort and there were a lot of moving parts. Everyone can take great pride in being the first to get it done."
The first NS-20 was replaced with the NS-50 at Malmstrom Aug. 3, 1999, at the India-9 location. The final replacement at Malmstrom took place Dec. 4 at Charlie-10.