Hoeven Continues Work on Grand Forks AFB Priorities

Air Force to Start Process Next Year to Select Next Base for the KC-46 Mission, Grand Forks in the Running

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven and members of the Grand Forks Base Realignment Impact Committee (BRIC) today met with top Air Force officials to further advance the region’s leadership as a premier hub for unmanned aerial system (UAS) and to further initiatives important to Grand Forks Air Force Base. Specifically, Hoeven said the Air Force will start the process in 2016 for selecting a base the KC-46 Aerial Refueling Tanker; Grand Forks is in the running for the mission. The group also pushed for a lead role for Grand Forks Air Force Base in supporting the Arctic mission.

Hoeven and the BRIC members met at the Pentagon with Miranda Ballentine, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, and Jennifer Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Installations, and Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

“This is an era of innovation and growth for Grand Forks Air Force Base and the entire region,” Hoeven said. “The BRIC team has done an outstanding job of supporting the base and the community. Now with Northrop Grumman and General Atomics at Grand Sky, we are advancing our state’s leadership in unmanned aerial systems. We continue working to strengthen and expand the base and its missions.”

KC-46 Aerial Refueling Tanker

Hoeven and the BRIC again cited GFAFB’s strategic northern location as an advantage in a possible future tanker mission at Grand Forks. Following Hoeven's efforts to promote GFAFB in 2012, the Air Force identified the base as a finalist for a new tanker mission and indicated it would receive strong consideration in future base selections for the new KC-46 aerial refueling tanker. Hoeven said that the tanker would be a big win for the base.

Arctic Initiative

The Arctic initiative Hoeven started with BRIC last year now is in front of Air Force officials. In October 2014, Hoeven and BRIC members visited Northern Command in Colorado to understand the U.S. military’s development of its strategy to secure and defend American interests in the Arctic. The need for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in that region strongly underscores the needs for capabilities like the Global Hawk. The position of Grand Forks as a northern tier base reinforces the base’s relevance to emerging Arctic missions. BRIC highlighted the Arctic with Miller as a first step in working with the Air Force to position the base to meet future Arctic requirements.

Grand Sky Technology Park

BRIC reviewed with Ballentine and Miller the current status of Grand Sky technology park, including updates on the Joint Use Agreement that allows the park to access the base runway. They also highlighted prospects for new tenants at the park and progress made to accommodate Northrop Grumman and General Atomics that have already committed to be at Grand Sky.

Hoeven has led the effort to help Grand Forks County secure an enhanced use lease (EUL) with the U.S. Air Force for the development of Grand Sky, a cutting-edge UAS technology and business park the county is building on approximately 217 acres at Grand Forks Air Force Base.

Securing an anchor tenant for the park was key to the project. In 2012, Hoeven brought senior Northrop Grumman officials, including Tom Vice, Northrop Grumman’s Corporate VP and President of Aerospace Systems, to Grand Forks to see firsthand the tremendous synergies that are developing between BRIC, UND, the UND Aerospace Foundation and Northland Aerospace Foundation. As a result, Northrop Grumman, one of the world’s premier aerospace and defense technology companies, committed to be the park’s first tenant. Northrop Grumman makes the RQ-4 Global Hawk, which is operated by the Air Combat Command unit at GFAFB.

In September, following several meetings with key company leaders, Hoeven announced that General Atomics, which manufactures the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, would come to Grand Sky to construct a training academy for UAS pilots. Hoeven continues to work with the Air Force to allow U.S. Air Force pilots to receive training via General Atomics as a way of filling the existing shortfall of qualified pilots needed to meet the demands of U.S. commanders overseas for unmanned aircraft capabilities.