Hoeven: Defense Appropriations Bill Supports North Dakota Air Base Missions

Includes Provisions to Benefit Minot, Grand Forks Bases, ND Air Guard

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today said the new Fiscal Year 2013 Department of Defense (DoD) Appropriations bill approved by the full Senate Appropriations Committee provides support for North Dakota air base missions in Minot, Grand Forks and Fargo. Hoeven, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, has pushed for strong national defense measures.

The DoD appropriations measure includes provisions to ensure continued funding and operations for the C-27J cargo aircraft based in Fargo; the Global Hawk unmanned aerial systems based in Grand Forks; and the B-52 bomber and intercontinental ballistic missile system (ICBM) based in Minot.

Fargo Air National Guard Base

In a move that will strengthen Fargo’s C-27J mission, the legislation requires the Secretary of the Air Force to use funds appropriated in the last Defense Department appropriations bill for the procurement of the C-27J cargo aircraft. Additionally, the bill includes $138 million to sustain C-27J operations through 2013.

The C-27J is a smaller, more flexible cargo aircraft that is newer and less expensive to operate than the larger C-130. It is able to operate in remote and rough environments and can take off and land from unprepared surfaces and short airstrips.

Grand Forks Air Force Base

The legislation also includes a provision requiring the Air Force to use funds previously appropriated to acquire the RQ-4B Global Hawk aircraft, and includes $133 million to sustain Global Hawk Block 30 operations. Grand Forks Air Force Base received its first Global Hawk last year as part of the base’s new unmanned aerial systems mission.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk program calls for 31 Block 30 Global Hawks and 11 Block 40 Global Hawks, which will eventually be used to phase out the older U-2 manned surveillance aircraft with a safer, more modern unmanned system. Replacing the U-2 would strengthen the UAS mission at Grand Forks Air Force Base, which is home to several Global Hawk Block 40 aerial systems, by expanding the Global Hawk’s mission.

Today’s Committee’s report accompanying the bill also includes language instructing the Department of Defense to work with the FAA and NASA to ensure a consistent approach to the integration of unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace. Hoeven introduced an amendment to the FAA bill passed in February that directs the agency to develop six pilot test sites as part of a program for safely flying manned and unmanned aircraft concurrently in the NAS. The legislation requires the FAA to consider geographical and climatic diversity, as well as the location of ground infrastructure, in naming the test sites, which bolsters North Dakota’s chances of being named a northern test site.

Minot Air Force Base

The Minot Air Force Base is home to both the 5th Bomb Wing and the 91st Missile Wing. The DoD bill appropriates $186 million in ICBM-related procurement and $280 million for ICBM-related research and development. In addition, the measure provides $63 million in B-52-related procurements and research and development. The ICBM and B-52 funding will be used to modernize the fleet and extend their service life.