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Is it time to quit the ICBM race The sky over the turbulent Pacific was pitch black earlier this month when a Minuteman III missile blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a column of fire that illuminated the California coastline for miles.

The unarmed missile thundered past the outer reaches of the atmosphere, tracing a fiery arc around the globe before plunging into a lagoon at Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific, 4,200 miles away. defense strategy: a fleet of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of obliterating any spot on Earth with a nuclear blast in 30 minutes or less. Although the flight test proved Minuteman is still capable of performing its mission, major components of the missile and the control centers used to launch them are Cold War era relics that have become increasingly expensive to maintain. Spare parts are in such short supply that the military has been known to pull them from museums. At the same time, Russia and China are upgrading their nuclear capabilities. Pakistan, India and Israel continue to build new nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Air Force officials worry increasingly about the Minuteman's ability to penetrate adversaries' future missile defense systems. The result is one of the most strategically complex and financially difficult challenges the Trump administration faces in making good on the president's pledge for a "great rebuilding of the armed forces," including the nation's aging nuclear arsenal. The Pentagon has begun work to replace the Minuteman fleet with a new generation of missiles and launch control centers, but the plan would cost an astronomical $85 billion, one of the most expensive projects in Air Force history. Two defense firms will be awarded three year contracts for $359 million each this year, with a test flight program scheduled for launch in the mid 2020s. The tremendous expense of shop pandora bracelets online deploying complete pandora charm bracelets a missile fleet capable in the long term of countering nuclear threats has spawned a debate in the American military establishment: How essential, in the 21st century, are the 400 strategic missiles embedded in silos deep under the plains of Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota? The discussion has opened for review the very essence of the nation's nuclear defense strategy: the "triad" deployment of nuclear weapons, in submarines, strategic bombers and land based silos, to guarantee the ability to retaliate against any nuclear strike. Members of the Air Force 576th Flight Test Squadron launch team for GT 222 monitor systems from the ICBM Launch Support Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Members of the Air Force 576th Flight Test Squadron launch team for GT 222 monitor systems from the ICBM Launch Support Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times) The Minuteman III was developed www pandora charms in the 1960s and first deployed in 1970. The nearly 50 year old hardware is still working fine, but not without extensive maintenance. "I look at the Minuteman III like a classic car," said Col. Craig Ramsey, commander of the fleet's flight test squadron at Vandenberg. "I love my 1966 Mustang, but it requires a lot of tender loving care and maintenance whether you drive it or leave it in the garage." At its peak in about 1990, the Air Force fielded 450 Minuteman IIs, 500 Minuteman IIIs and 50 Peacekeeper missiles, a total of 1,000 ICBMs that had more than 2,000 warheads on them. Today's 400 Minuteman missiles each field a single warhead. Pentagon officials want to replace almost the entire nuclear arsenal, at a cost of up to $1 trillion. But no component has raised more questions than the replacement of the ICBM fleet, which critics have said is no longer crucial to preventing a nuclear war. The argument for eliminating ICBMs is stronger than at any time in the past. Advocates of that strategy say submarine based missiles and strategic bombers have improved their capability and are now more than potent enough to deter an enemy attack. Former pandora charms store locator Defense Secretary William J. Perry fired the opening salvo last year, calling for phasing out the entire land based ICBM force. He argued that its continued deployment is too costly. And with the missiles on continuous alert in order to be able to launch instantly if an enemy launch is detected by satellites and radar, a mistake or faulty warning could trigger an accidental nuclear war. "The ICBM system is outdated, risky and unnecessary," Perry, who served in the Clinton administration 20 years ago, said in a recent interview. "Basically, it can bring about the end of civilization with a false alarm. military at the Hoover Institution in September 2016. military at the Hoover Institution in September 2016. (Win McNamee / Getty Images) Perry has not been alone in expressing doubts about the ICBM program, but senior Pentagon leaders have always been persuaded to keep it. Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called for elimination of ICBMs before entering office and then changed his mind. Trump's Defense secretary, James N. Mattis, questioned the need for the missiles in 2015 when he was a four star general. But as soon as he was nominated, he began supporting a full blown modernization of the triad. The reevaluation of the role of ICBMs in America's defense comes in an era when nuclear weapons are proliferating, not fading away. military systems and strategies for more than three decades, says critics "are gaining no traction" in calling for the elimination of the ballistic missile fleet. Air Force leaders also worry that Russia, China and North Korea are investing in new nuclear missile systems that would erode the military edge that the Minuteman has provided with its reliability and accuracy. At some point, they say, the Minuteman's ability to penetrate future missile defense systems could be compromised. "Nuclear weapons are foundational to our national security," said Maj. Gen. Fred Stoss III, director of operations at the Air Force Global Strike Command. "The ICBMs are the most responsive.

They have the quickest launch times. The ICBMs are the most stabilizing leg of the triad.".

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