Hoeven and Air Force Secretary Outline Grand Forks Air Force Base Redesignation as Lead for All Global Hawk Operations

As Member of Defense Approps Committee, Senator Worked to Ensure Future of Global Hawk, Provide Funding to Upgrade Its Capabilities

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today joined Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in marking the re-designation of the Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB) as an Air Reconnaissance Wing, establishing the base as the lead in all Global Hawk operations. As governor, Hoeven worked to bring the RQ-4 Global Hawk mission to the GFAFB. Then, when the previous administration wanted to move away from the Global Hawk fleet in favor of the U-2 manned aircraft, Hoeven worked as a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee to preserve the Global Hawk unmanned mission and provide strong funding to upgrade its capabilities.

Specifically, the senator secured legislation to:

  • Prevent the Department of Defense from retiring the Global Hawk.
  • Provide $100 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 to procure an additional Global Hawk with the BACN payload, which serves as a communications relay for ground forces that might otherwise be unable to contact each other.
  • Secured $8 million in funding in FY2018 todevelop a universal payload adapter for the Global Hawk Block 40. This will allow the aircraft to carry many different types of sensors and serve in a wide variety of missions.

Now, with today’s re-designation, Grand Forks has authority over the following fleet:

  • Four Block 20 Global Hawks carrying the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) assigned to Grand Forks.
  • 18 Block 30 Global Hawks carrying a variety of sensor payloads assigned to Beale Air Force Base in California.
  • 11 Block 40 Global Hawks carrying advanced radar to track moving ground targets assigned to Grand Forks.

“When the Grand Forks Air Force Base lost its previous mission, we moved quickly to begin establishing our state as a leader in unmanned aviation, which helped ensure the Global Hawk and other UAS missions were brought to the region,” Hoeven said. “However, our work wasn’t done, as the previous administration wanted to move away from the Global Hawk in favor of the U-2. We worked hard to make the case for the Global Hawk mission, and passed legislation through annual appropriations bills to invest in the Global Hawk and enhance its capabilities. These efforts, combined with the great work of our airmen in Grand Forks, ultimately led to the aircraft’s current position as the premier intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. Today’s re-designation cements Grand Forks as the leader in this ISR mission and further establishes this region as the nation’s proving ground for UAS.”

Bringing the Global Hawk to Grand Forks

Following the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round, Hoeven sought to kick start the unmanned aerial systems industry (UAS) in North Dakota and worked with the Air Force, National Guard Bureau and BRAC Commission to secure unmanned missions in Grand Forks and Fargo. His efforts to advance this priority include:

  • Establishing the Center of Excellence for UAS Research, Education and Trainingat the University of North Dakota, the first collegiate program of its kind in the nation.
  • Facilitating an enhanced use lease between Grand Forks County and the Air Force, leading to the creation of the Grand Sky UAS Research and Development Park.
    • Hoeven secured Northrop Grumman, which manufactures the Global Hawk, as the park’s anchor tenant.
  • Arranging a meeting between the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration tobegin efforts toward integrating UAS into the national airspace.
    • This was the precursor to Hoeven’s legislation that established the nation’s six UAS test sites, including the North Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks.