If you thought the good old days of living under the threat of global thermonuclear war were over, think again, because the US military keeps shining those Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles just in case the new and coming Chinese aircraft carrier battle groups get funny over the Pacific Ocean. But fear not, because that doesn't mean more missiles. They are just making the silos more secure by installing something called Fast Rising B-Plug Kits in the silos. The obvious questions are: Do they mean they weren't secure enough before? And more importantly, what the heck is a Fast Rising B-Plug?
A B-plug is exactly that, a plug. Not any plug, though, but a steel security door located inside the cylindrical shaft that joins the access hatch—a heavily-armoured steel-and-concrete vault door that is operated by two hydraulic arms—with the lower equipment level. The B-plug acts as a block in the shaft, fitting inside the cylinder like a piston, which is secured and operated by an electromechanical actuator. The maintenance crews enters the silo through the hatch but, unless the B-plug is retracted, they can't access the missile itself.
Reading the above twice, I feel dirty. What Boeing is doing is to make these B-plugs more secure with these kits, which has an "active delay device that allows personnel in the Minuteman Launch Facility to rapidly secure the facility from any of multiple locations."
In other words, a $US65 million electronic key.
Boeing to Supply Security Systems for Minuteman III Launch Facilities
OGDEN, Utah, Oct. 20, 2008 — The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA]announced today that it will manufacture and deliver control system hardware and modification kits to improve security at more than 450 Minuteman III facilities as part of the U.S. Air Force Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Security Modernization Program.
Boeing will perform the production work under a $10 million subcontract to Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. The 42-month firm-fixed-price and award-fee contract has a maximum value of approximately $27 million, when all priced options are included. This contract includes the second through fourth and final phases of the production contract. The total program value for production and development phases is approximately $65 million.
The security systems are called Fast Rising B-Plug Kits. Delivery of the kits under this phase of the contract is expected to begin in January 2009. Low-rate initial production began in 2005, and delivery of the first phase of full-rate production B-Plug Kits occurred in January 2008.
"The program improves the performance of the personnel access hatch that enables entry to the missile launch facilities, enhancing the secure operations and maintenance of the Minuteman III system," said Kelly Johnson, Boeing ICBM Prime Ground and Weapons Systems program manager.
The mission of the Fast Rising B-Plug Kit program is to design, qualify and field a robust security system. The system provides an active delay device that allows personnel in the Minuteman Launch Facility to rapidly secure the facility from any of multiple locations.
The Fast Rising B-Plug Kit team has successfully completed design, integration testing, qualification testing and Initial Operating Capability, and provided support to U.S. Air Force-led installation teams at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., and Minot Air Force Base, N.D. To date, the team has delivered more than 25 percent of the 459 anticipated kits, continuing Boeing's 50-year legacy of successful Minuteman ground systems deliveries, installations and modifications.