The U.S. subsidiary of Europe’s biggest defense contractor has carved out a unique niche in sustaining the long-range ballistic missiles of the U.S. Air Force and Navy — the parts of the nuclear “triad” where over 90% of the warheads in the strategic arsenal reside. BAE Systems, Inc. provides system engineering and sustainment services to both the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs Office and the Air Force’s Nuclear Weapons Center. It also supports the United Kingdom’s sea-based strategic deterrent. At the core of this unusual franchise is the ability to assure force readiness by making sure all parts of the operational deterrent mesh and that planned improvements can be seamlessly integrated without disruption. That is a vital competency at a time when all three legs of the triad are being modernized, but will still rely on legacy infrastructure such as hardened missile silos in the upper Midwest. BAE has been developing its third-party sustainment skills since the U.S. sea-based deterrent first went to sea in the 1950s, and more recently has become Integration Support Contractor for the Air Force strategic missile community. Whatever the outcome of ongoing competitions to recapitalize the arsenal, BAE Systems looks likely to play a critical role in helping to deter nuclear war for the foreseeable future. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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