Hoeven Hosts NORTHCOM Commander at Grand Forks Air Force Base

Senator Working to Secure Role for Grand Forks in Arctic Mission, Counter-UAS Operations

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today 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 Grand Forks Air Force Base and Grand Sky Technology Park.                                                                                                             

“We’ve worked hard to build a UAS ecosystem that can’t be found anywhere else in the world,” Hoeven said. “Not only do we have the Air Force Global Hawk and Customs and Border Patrol missions at the air base, but we have the two premiere UAS companies just next door at Grand Sky offering training, research and development. We brought General Robinson to the state so she could see firsthand the unique opportunities our UAS industry offers. Coupled with our state’s close proximity to parts of the Arctic and the upgrades to our DASR-11 radar, we were able to make a strong case today that NORTHCOM’s Arctic and counter-UAS operations would benefit from what Grand Forks can provide.”

Arctic Mission

Hoeven has worked in recent years to secure an Arctic mission for Grand Forks. This includes a delegation the senator led to NORTHCOM headquarters in 2014 and inviting Gen. Robinson to the state last year. Robinson’s visit provided an opportunity for the senator to highlight the unique convergence of the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) research, training and operations in the region and how the base is well-positioned to support NORTHCOM’s efforts to strengthen security in the Arctic region.

Grand Forks Air Force Base is closer to some parts of the Arctic than even Alaska. Increased activity in the Arctic region, including more activity by Russia, has necessitated American activity and surveillance to ensure safety and stability. For the past several years, NORTHCOM has been working with the Canadian Joint Operations Command to coordinate operations, including domain awareness, emergency response and training activities.

Counter-UAS Operations

The senator is working to build on the DASR-11 digital radar system upgrades he helped secure to advance the development of UAS-detection and counter-UAS technologies in North Dakota, a key components in the overall goal of safely integrating UAS into the National Airspace (NAS). Hoeven stressed that these research and developments efforts could bolster NORTHCOM’s efforts to protect against UAS threats to national security, while also helping ensure the safe use UAS in the commercial sector.

The radar upgrades were a vital part in obtaining authorization for the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to oversee UAS operations that go beyond the line of sight of the operator, which the Federal Aviation Administration approved at Hoeven’s request. This authorization gives the state a competitive edge in working with businesses and government agencies.