Hoeven: Air Force to Study Options to Train Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilots

Senator Pushes Grand Sky as Best Option for Air Force Training

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven told General Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, that he backs a new Air Force study to review options to train pilots for remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs). Hoeven said he believes the study will help to highlight the value of Grand Sky technology park at Grand Forks Air Force Base as a key hub to train U.S. Air Force pilots to fly RPAs. The Air Force faces significant challenges in training enough pilots to meet the demand for unmanned aircraft operations. 

Hoeven included language in the Fiscal Year 2016 Defense authorization bill instructing the Air Force to consider private sector-led RPA training, and he has urged Carlisle and the Air Force to use the private sector to augment its existing training capacity. He also included language in the Fiscal Year 2016 Defense appropriations bill. Carlisle told Hoeven that the Air Force will conduct a study of training options, which could include using private contractors to augment U.S. Air Force training capacity. 

“Grand Sky is already shaping up to be a critical hub for training international pilots of aircraft like the Global Hawk and the Predator, and it is well-positioned to support the Air Force’s need for additional pilots of these aircraft,” Hoeven said. “I look forward to the results of the Air Force study and continuing to work with Air Force leadership so that RPAs can be used to defend our interests around the world.”

Hoeven and Carlisle also discussed the training curriculum the Air Force uses to train its RPA pilots.  Hoeven said it is important for civilian contractors to have access to U.S. Air Force curriculum so that allied RPA pilots at Grand Sky can be trained to the highest standards.  Carlisle indicated that the Air Force was working with industry partners to make the appropriate curriculum available for international pilots.

Last month, Hoeven announced that aviation technology leader General Atomics (GA), manufacturer of the Predator and Reaper series of RPAs, and Grand Sky Development Co. have signed a 10-year lease agreement committing GA to establish an unmanned aerial systems (UAS) training academy at Grand Sky. The agreement also includes an option for another 10 years. Hoeven is also working with FlightSafety International, an associate of Northrop Grumman to initiate a training center at Grand Sky. Northrop Grumman makes the Global Hawk series of RPAs. Both General Atomics Predators and Northrop Grumman Global Hawks are stationed at North Dakota Air Force Bases.