Hoeven: Grand Forks Community is Strong Supporter of Air Force Base & Growing Hub of UAS Development

Senator Touts Community’s Support for Grand Forks Air Force Base and Partnership to Develop UAS at Grand Sky Technology Park

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – At the Association of Defense Communities’ (ADC) North Dakota Regional Defense Forum today, Senator John Hoeven touted the work of Grand Forks to support the Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB) and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) research and development. The forum, a gathering of defense communities from North Dakota, Montana and South Dakota, is focused on how communities can better support defense installations and partner with them to help create economic diversification. 

Immediately following Hoeven’s remarks, forum participants toured the Grand Sky Technology Park and heard from officials from Grand Sky, Grand Forks and the Air Force about how the Grand Forks community and the base are working together to advance UAS development in the region. Grand Sky is located on the GFAFB and has a cooperative agreement with the base to use its runway for developmental UAS aircraft test flights. Grand Sky is also located within the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, for which Hoeven worked with the FAA to approve authorization to oversee beyond-line-of-sight UAS operations.

“We continue working to make Grand Forks the center of all things UAS, and the support of the community is vital in that effort,” Hoeven said. “If you look at the body of UAS operations happening here – from the RQ-4 Global Hawks and CBP’s Predators operated out of Grand Forks Air Force Base, to the Northern Plains UAS test site and the research and development happening at Grand Sky – it’s apparent that the Red River Valley is a growing leader in UAS. This could not happen without strong community support, and Grand Forks continues to provide just that.”

Hoeven is working to position the Red River Valley as a UAS hub of research, development, operations and training. His recent efforts include:

National Defense Authorization Act

Hoeven authored an amendment to the recently passed Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that ensures National Guard unmanned aircraft pilots receive timely training by leveraging the expertise of civilian contractors, like General Atomics, which has a UAS training facility at Grand Sky.

The senator also worked to secure support for North Dakota defense missions in the NDAA. The legislation authorizes nearly $300 million for the Global Hawk, including the RQ-4 Global Hawk program at the GFAFB. The aircraft is manufactured by Northrop Grumman, which recently opened its UAS research and training facility at Grand Sky and was brought in by Hoeven to serve as the park’s anchor tenant.

Funding for Grand Forks Air Force Base

In the FY 2017 funding agreement earlier this year, Hoeven worked through his role as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee to support priorities for the GFAFB, including:

  • Language prohibiting any retirement or divestment of aircraft from the Air Force’s fleet of RQ-4 Global Hawks.
  • $15 million to standardize CBP’s Predator fleet, part of which is flown out of GFAFB, to reduce long-term operating costs.
  • $7.3 million to continue investments in UAS infrastructure, such as the DASR-11 digital radar system, which was vital to the FAA’s approval of beyond-line-of-sight operations for the Northern Plains UAS test site.

Customs and Border Protection Mission at Grand Forks Air Force Base

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hoeven secured $8 million in FY 2017 funding for the facility to ensure that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) could continue its UAS operations and training out of Grand Forks. CBP recently leased a newly renovated facility on GFAFB. 

Arctic Mission

In August, Hoeven hosted U.S. Air Force (USAF) General Lori Robinson, leader of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and Commander, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), for a meeting and tour at the GFAFB and Grand Sky. The senator has worked in recent years to secure an Arctic mission for Grand Forks. Hoeven led a delegation to NORTHCOM headquarters in 2014 and invited Gen. Robinson to the state last year. The senator continues to highlight how the base is well-positioned to support NORTHCOM’s efforts to strengthen security in the Arctic region.