Hoeven: Air Force Announces Plan to Stand Up New MQ-9 Reaper UAS Wing

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the Air Force is planning to stand up a new remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) MQ-9 Reaper wing. The new wing will be comprised of an operations group and a maintenance group, which could be collocated at one base or stood up at multiple bases. Under the initial criteria, North Dakota’s Air Force bases in Grand Forks and Minot are both among 19 installations nationally that are eligible sites; however, the Air Force will narrow the list to finalists this summer, Hoeven said.

“The Air Force this week took the first step toward determining where to base additional unmanned aircraft and their support groups,” Hoeven said. “I’ll continue to make the case that North Dakota is the right location for the new wing. In particular, Grand Forks is well positioned because of all the work we’ve done there to make the region a center for UAS.”

The senator has been working with senior Air Force officials, including Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Miranda Ballentine, and General Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, to make the case for basing a new RPA mission at Grand Forks Air Force Base. Last week he met with them and both testified at the Military Construction Appropriations Committee. Hoeven has also been working to locate UAS pilot training facilities at Grand Forks Air Force Base.

The Air Force expects to release a list of finalists and arrange site visits by this summer. The Air Force Secretary is expected to make a decision on the location sometime next winter. The first aircraft should be placed by the spring of 2020.