Hoeven: Arrival of the First Global Hawk Block 40 to Grand Forks Air Force Base Marks a New Era

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today said the arrival of the first Block 40 Global Hawk aircraft at the Grand Forks Air Force Base is positive news in light of the Federal Aviation Administration’s notice last month that the delivery would be delayed. 

Global Hawk arrived in Grand Forks from California yesterday, and is the first of 10 Global Hawk Block 40 aircraft to be based at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. Additional Global Hawks will arrive at Grand Forks later this fall. The Air Force will activate the 69th Reconnaissance Group to operate and maintain the Global Hawk aircraft at a ceremony at the base on Monday.

 Hoeven said he was pleased the agency was responsive to concerns that he, Senator Kent Conrad and Representative Rick Berg expressed last month to FAA Administrator J. Randolph Babbitt objecting to the postponement, noting that personnel were already on the base and delays could idle them. They urged the agency to look for ways to meet the operational needs of the Air Force while maintaining the safety of the National Airspace. 

Hoeven said yesterday morning’s flight is the first step in a cooperative arrangement between the FAA and the Air Force, and he commended them for working to resolve the problem.  Their future cooperation is essential both for the Air Force and for civilian users of the local airspace, he said. 

Hoeven said it is now crucial to pass a long-term FAA Authorization bill. The Senator successfully included an amendment in the Senate-passed bill that would allow the FAA to move forward in coordination with the military to develop concurrent or layered airspace for UAS flight in the National Airspace. 

The amendment also calls on the FAA to develop certification and flight standards, and establishes UAS test and training sites across the nation. Hoeven is pushing for one of the centers to be based in North Dakota. The Senate and the House have both passed different versions and the bills must be reconciled before becoming law. This week, however, they passed another temporary four-month FAA authorization extension. 

“We’ve had enough extensions,” Hoeven said. “We need to move expeditiously now on a solid, long-term bill that will enable efforts like the Global Hawk mission at Grand Forks Air Force Base to move forward.” 

“The arrival yesterday of the first Block 40 marks another advance in a sophisticated and essential mission for the Grand Forks Air Force Base,” Hoeven said. “Global Hawk and UAS represent a new era in military aviation, and we’re proud that Grand Forks has an important role to play.” 

In June, the air base received its first Global Hawk, an earlier version of the Block 40 aircraft equipped for a different mission. Before Global Hawk’s arrival, the Grand Forks Air Force Base was already home to Predator B, unmanned aircraft that fly missions for Customs and Border Protection and are used overseas as well.