Hoeven Makes Case for Grand Forks Global Hawk Role in Military's Arctic Operations

Senator Invites NORTHCOM Commander Admiral Bill Gortney to Grand Forks

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven this week spoke with Admiral Bill Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), to make the case for using Grand Forks Air Force Base to support his command’s Arctic operations. The senator also offered to host Admiral Gortney on a site visit to the base to see what it has to offer NORTHCOM.

NORTHCOM is the joint command responsible for all U.S. military missions in and around North America, including the Arctic region.

“The Department of Defense is working to build the Arctic mission, which is very important because of Russian activity in the Arctic,” Hoeven said. “Clearly Grand Forks can play a major role in this effort, so I’ve spoken with Admiral Gortney and invited him to come see what we’re doing in Grand Forks with the Global Hawk and unmanned aircraft. I think he’ll come join us and see how we can be a big part of the Arctic mission.”

Hoeven touted the role reconnaissance aircraft like the Global Hawks based at Grand Forks Air Force Base could play in Arctic operations. The Arctic is a vast region, and a number of world powers are keenly interested in it for commercial and military uses. It is increasingly important to the United States because of its significant energy and natural resources, as well as emerging opportunities for research. The region is also emerging as an important focus for the U.S. military, which means the Northern Command will need the right tools to secure America’s interests and national security in the region.

Because Grand Forks is closer to some parts of the Arctic than even Alaska, the base is well positioned for a role in this new military undertaking, Hoeven said. Possible missions like this underscore why Hoeven fought to get and retain the Global Hawk mission in Grand Forks, to secure the region as one of the six national test sites for UAS integration and to help establish Grand Sky, the county’s new 217-acre technology park on the grounds of the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

Grand Sky, with its maintenance facilities and other UAS infrastructure, could eventually provide an ideal way to support Arctic deployments. Similarly, the University of North Dakota’s new Aerospace and UAS Research, Training and Education Building could also strengthen North Dakota’s position for Arctic missions.  

Last year Hoeven was briefed by top officials at NORTHCOM headquarters at Peterson Air Force base in Colorado. The senator discussed with them how the UAS mission at Grand Forks Air Force Base can play a role in NORTHCOM’s Arctic operations. That meeting was prompted by an updated Arctic strategy report the Department of Defense released last year in response to changes in the landscape that are providing greater access to the region for a range of uses. Apart from defensive operations, these include energy development, fishing, shipping, tourism and other activities.