Hoeven Briefs Base Realignment Impact Committee on Effort to Bring Manned Mission to Grand Forks

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today provided details to the Grand Forks Base Realignment Impact Committee (BRIC) about the effort he initiated this week to get the manned E-11A aircraft based at Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB) along with the Global Hawk Block 20, which is already stationed there. Both aircraft are capable of performing the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) mission.

The Air Force designed BACN in response to the urgent operational needs of deployed forces overseas and provides excellent communications capabilities at relatively low cost, making it both important to the nation’s defense and cost-effective at a time when the military is under tremendous budget pressure. Briefly, the system provides communications capabilities in the air and on the ground across the battlefield. Because of its mobility and ability to operate at high altitudes, BACN can enable air and surface forces to communicate even in mountainous terrain and over a wide range, providing real-time information.

In a letter this week, Hoeven stressed to Air Force Secretary Deborah James that the BACN mission is a valuable asset and should be made a permanent Air Force program. Because GFAFB is already home to Global Hawk Block 20 aircraft, the senator made the case that the North Dakota base is a cost-effective, logical host for the BACN program if the manned E-11A were also based there.

As home to Grand Sky, the region’s new aerospace business and technology park on the GFAFB, and with Northrop Grumman as Grand Sky’s anchor tenant, Hoeven told the committee today that Grand Forks is ideally equipped for the mission, with extensive experience in both UAS and conventional manned aircraft. Northrop Grumman manufactures the Global Hawk. Hoeven will meet this week with Deputy Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning to further advance the push for the E-11A mission in Grand Forks.

“The Air Force can make BACN permanent by using existing facilities at Grand Forks Air Force Base, minimizing costs while retaining a critical communications capability important to our national defense,” said Hoeven. “In addition to the BACN mission and the Global Hawk Block 20, Grand Forks Air Force Base already hosts the Global Hawk Block 40 and is preparing to lease additional space at the base for contractor operations. That creates opportunity to locate BACN-related contractors to Grand Sky at minimal expense.”

Hoeven also spoke with George Guerra, vice president, HALE systems strategic ventures at Northrop Grumman, to advance the partnership with Grand Forks. He plans to follow up with company President Tom Vice this week. Hoeven has been working for more than two years to secure a commitment from the company to be Grand Sky’s anchor tenant. A year ago the company and its partners signed an historic strategic alliance agreement between the aerospace giant and BRIC, the University of North Dakota, UND Aerospace Foundation and Northland Aerospace Foundation.

“The BRIC and its partners have done an outstanding job of positioning Grand Forks and the base to take on the BACN and other missions,” Hoeven said. “By bringing together technological expertise, first-rate research, military sophistication and commercial knowhow to one ideal location, we have been able to persuade the Air Force to provide an extended use lease and attract a top-tier company like Northrop Grumman. We’ve come a long way, and this is just the beginning.”

The senator also pushed for an Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) with top U.S. Air Force officials and Grand Forks County to establish Grand Sky on the base. The Air Force has announced its intention to sign the lease, enabling the county to build the complex on approximately 217 acres on the base Air Force Base.

In addition, Hoeven authored and introduced an amendment to the last Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill that directed the agency to establish six UAS test sites across the nation to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System. Grand Forks was notified in December that it had been selected as one of the sites. In March, Hoeven and Senator Heidi Heitkamp hosted FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to North Dakota, where he announced that the program at the GFAFB would be the first in the nation to become operational.