Hoeven: Air Force, Grand Sky Sign Joint Use Agreement to Share Runway at Grand Forks Air Force Base

Senator Worked to Secure the Runway Agreement to Advance UAS Integration into National Airspace

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the U.S. Air Force and Grand Sky Business and Technology Park have signed a joint use agreement to share the base’s runway.

Hoeven has been working with senior Air Force officials, including Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and General Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle, Commander of Air Combat Command, to complete their review of the agreement. Most recently, he made the case for the agreement last week with Jennifer L. Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, who is responsible for the management, policy and oversight of Air Force installation programs.

“This is a vitally important agreement for Grand Sky and Grand Forks,” Hoeven said. “It means that tenants like Northrop Grumman and General Atomics will soon be able to access a quality runway to operate their UAS alongside the base’s Global Hawks. They will be able to both test products and train pilots for the next generation of UAS, which will advance Grand Forks’ role as the premier northern hub of UAS innovation.”

  • Northern Plains UAS Test Site

Hoeven worked to include legislation in the 2012 FAA Reauthorization bill that directed the agency to establish six test sites tasked with integrating UAS into the National Airspace System. The Hoeven language instructed the FAA Administrator to consider factors including geographical and climatic diversity, as well as the location of ground infrastructure, in selecting the test sites.  Hoeven, along with the Grand Forks Base Realignment Impact Committee (BRIC), North Dakota Airspace Integration Team (AIT) and Grand Forks leaders repeatedly made the case for Grand Forks. In December of 2013, the FAA selected the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks as one of the six sites.

  • Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) with the U.S. Air Force

Hoeven led the effort to help Grand Forks County advance Grand Sky and secure an EUL with the U.S. Air Force, including securing an anchor tenant for the park. In 2012, Hoeven brought senior Northrop Grumman officials, one of the world’s premier aerospace and defense technology companies, to Grand Forks to see firsthand the tremendous synergies that are developing between Grand Forks BRIC, UND, the UND Aerospace Foundation and Northland Aerospace Foundation. Northrop Grumman makes the RQ-4 Global Hawk, which is operated by the Air Combat Command unit at GFAFB.

Hoeven subsequently worked to secure a General Atomics UAS training academy at Grand Sky. General Atomics is not only a leading provider of UAS pilot training, but also one of the world’s leading developers of high-technology systems. These range from airborne sensors to advanced unmanned aerial systems, including the Predator series UAS, which are based at Grand Forks Air Force Base.

The company broke ground in November on a 19,400 square foot training facility, which is expected to be complete by next August. The academy will operate year-round with the capacity to train more than 100 students per year. The company is currently in negotiations to offer training to pilots from six nations, with two countries scheduled to start training in 2016. In its first year of operation, the academy will have about 25 staff, which is expected to triple to accommodate training for additional countries.