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Minuteman III receives upgrade

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 2:10 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley/Released)

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test Aug. 2, 2017, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AFNS) --

As part of move to further modernize the nuclear enterprise, Airmen from the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base recently implemented a $68 million upgrade to the LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.

First used on June 23, 2017, this new device – known as the Data Transfer Unit, was designed to replace the legacy Cartridge Tape Unit and Launch Facility Load Cartridge systems. 

“The DTU loads the Missile Guidance Set, which is the brain of the Minuteman III, with sensitive cryptographic data and other information the missile needs in order to function,” said Capt. Kevin Drumm, 91st Operations Support Squadron ICBM codes operations chief. “After its first operational use, we transitioned to using DTUs 100 percent of the time during the 742nd Missile Squadron’s Operation Olympic Step.”

During Olympic Step, which refers to the annual ICBM code change operation, maintenance teams using DTUs observed a significant increase in productivity.

“The legacy LFLC’s take about 45 minutes to produce the Wing Codes Processing System, and about 30 minutes to load at a launch facility,” said Drumm. “The new DTU takes less than 30 minutes to produce, and about seven minutes to load.”

Additionally, the LFLC can only hold enough data and information for a single launch facility, which meant Airmen would need to carry up to 50 LFLC’s to accomplish a complete code change. A single DTU is capable of storing the same amount of data as 12 LFLC’s.

“The DTU has increased productivity and shortened the time required to conduct coding operations,” said Drumm. “It’s also 25-pounds lighter than the CTU.”

Under the previous system, Airmen carried two CTUs – which weighed roughly 90-pounds. Now, they only need to take one DTU, which is only 20-pounds. Drumm said this new system enables faster, more reliable and more secure ICBM operations.

“Simply put,” he said, “the DTU loads the missile with the information and data required for it to function properly day-to-day, as well as launch or prevent a launch, based on presidential direction.”

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