Hoeven: Congress Supports Global Hawk, Invests in UAS Research

Senator Updates BRIC on Provisions He Included in Omnibus Bill to Support GFAFB Mission, UAS Test Site Operations

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today met with members of the Grand Forks Base Realignment Impact Committee (BRIC) to outline key provisions in the Fiscal Year 2015 omnibus funding bill that support missions at Grand Forks Air Force Base and help to further the region as a leader in unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Hoeven worked to include provisions in the bill to fund the Global Hawk in 2015 and support UAS research.

“This legislation supports our efforts in the Grand Forks region, both on the base and as a test site for integrating UAS into the national airspace,” said Hoeven. “We worked to ensure that the bill supports our global hawk mission and also invests in UAS research for our test sites to further their work to safely fly both manned and unmanned aircraft together.”

Hoeven worked to include the following provisions in the legislation:

  • Full Funding for the Global Hawk: Provides funding for the RQ-4 Global Hawk in 2015.  The Air Force previously considered divesting the Global Hawk fleet but Hoeven worked to convince them to keep the Global Hawk and divest the older U-2 fleet. Grand Forks Air Force Base hosts a Global Hawk mission.
  • Support for UAS Research: Includes an additional $7.8 million Hoeven requested for UAS research at the Department of Defense and an additional $6 million for UAS research at the FAA. This funding will support integration research projects that can be performed at the UAS test sites and the establishment of a Center of Excellence for UAS research.

These provisions build on Hoeven’s work to support Grand Forks Air Force Base and to build the region into a premier center for UAS operations.

Test Site Operations

Hoeven continues working to bolster UAS operations at the test site in Grand Forks. Earlier this month, Hoeven pressed FAA Secretary Michael Huerta to make more aggressive use of the six national UAS test sites to safely and expeditiously integrate unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace. Hoeven asked Huerta to ensure that the FAA allows the test sites to support commercial UAS research and development activities. The FAA has since clarified that it will permit commercial related test flights, opening the door for greater activity at the Northern Plains site. Hoeven also asked Huerta to expedite the Northern Plains UAS test site’s request for a broad Certificate of Authorization (COA) that would permit a variety of UAS operations in the test site's air space. The administrator indicated the FAA is reviewing that request. Finally, Hoeven asked if the FAA could expedite approval of new UAS airframes to fly in the test site's airspace. Huerta told Senator Hoeven that the FAA is in the process of training additional Designated Airworthiness Representatives (DARs) so that new airframes can be deemed safe to fly for test purposes at the Northern Plains test site.

Last month, Hoeven also pressed FAA officials to expedite approvals for testing UAS flights in concurrent air space and to take additional steps to more fully utilize the sites’ capabilities. Last December, the senator announced that the FAA had selected Grand Forks to serve as a test site for integrating UAS into the national airspace last December. To secure the designation, Hoeven introduced language in the FAA Reauthorization bill passed by Congress in February 2012 that directed the agency to establish the test sites and integrate UAS into the National Airspace System.

Building Grand Sky

Along with his work on the test site, Hoeven has led the effort to help Grand Forks County enter into an enhanced use lease with the Air Force for the development of Grand Sky, the region’s state-of-the-art aerospace business and technology park. In 2012, Hoeven brought Northrop Grumman leadership to Grand Forks to secure the company as an anchor tenant for the complex.

Arctic Initiative

In October, Hoeven also joined BRIC officials in a visit to Northern Command to help position Grand Forks as a northern tier base for conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to secure the nation’s assets in the Arctic.