As the zenith era of Minuteman III continues to descend gradually, the Air Force is now scouring for a viable reentry vehicle for its contemporary successor.

The US Air Force issued a solicitation notice seeking the Next-Generation Reentry Vehicle (NGRV) for the future American Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) weapon system.

NGRV is that maneuverable part of the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that carries the payload—meaning the nuclear warhead—autonomously tracks ground targets, can shift trajectories during the flight phase, and “reenter” the atmosphere once the lethal projectile has been released.

Posting a request for information on Wednesday, the Department of Defense (DoD) is kicking off its market research and acquisition efforts, aiming to award contract/s for future reentry vehicles by fiscal 2026.

More information on the project is classified, but the service aimed to develop a new reentry vehicle with heightened “accuracy, lethality, and survivability.”

America’s Future Nuclear Defense

According to a primer published by the Congressional Research Service earlier this year, the LGM-35A Sentinel ICBM is slated to succeed the aging Minuteman III ICBM in the US nuclear force structure.

For more than 50 years, the Minuteman III served as the land-based leg of the United States’ strategic nuclear triad alongside submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) Trident D-5s and nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bomber planes.

Initiatives to start the next-generation ICBM program began in the 2010s, along with the modernization of the rest of the nuclear triad components. By 2020, the DoD awarded defense contractor giant Northrop Grumman a whopping $13.3 billion contract after Boeing withdrew the competitive bid.