Hoeven Marks Major Milestone for Modernization of Nuclear Forces in Minot
Senator Helps Break Ground on New MAFB Helicopter Facility, Worked to Secure Nearly $140 Million to Keep Project on Schedule for Grey Wolf Arrival in 2026
MINOT, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today marked a major milestone in the efforts to modernize the nation’s nuclear forces as he helped break ground on the new helicopter facility at Minot Air Force Base. The new facility comes as the culmination of eight years of work, which Hoeven began after discussing the need for new helicopters to secure the missile fields in 2015 with then-Commander of the 20th Air Force Lieutenant General Jack Weinstein:
- Hoeven then worked with Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) through their roles on the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee to develop and fund a plan for replacing the Vietnam-era UH-1N Huey helicopters.
- The Hueys are outdated and have limited capabilities for operating in nighttime and low-visibility conditions.
- The new MH-139 Grey Wolf helicopters will be able to fly faster, farther and higher than the Huey, will carry more cargo and includes improved navigation, communication and safety features.
- From fiscal years (FY) 2018-2023, Hoeven has secured $611.2 million in research and development funding for the new helicopter and $521 million for procurement.
- An additional $25.7 million for research and development and $228.8 million for procurement are included in the Senate’s FY2024 funding legislation.
- Minot is in line to begin receiving the Grey Wolf in 2026.
- In order to bring the new helicopters to Minot Air Force Base, a new helicopter facility was needed as the existing facility was too small to accommodate the Grey Wolf.
- Hoeven secured nearly $140 million across FY2019-2023 to construct the facility, as well as flexibility to address cost increases due to inflation and keep the project on schedule.T
- The facility will include a 133,000 square foot building and 30,000 square yards of apron and taxiway space to support the Grey Wolfs, the 54th Helicopter Squadron and the 91st Security Forces Group tactical response force.
“Minot Air Force Base is on the front lines of our national defense on a daily basis and is growing ever-more central to our security, as our adversaries grow bolder and attempt to exceed our capabilities,” said Hoeven. “That’s why our nuclear modernization efforts are so critical, including the nearly $140 million helicopter facility we’re breaking ground on today, which will provide essential infrastructure to support the new Grey Wolf helicopters and ensure the security of the missile fields. This is the culmination of eight years of work to secure a replacement for the Huey helicopters, and builds upon our efforts to ensure the continued effectiveness of Minot’s missions, like the new cruise missile, ICBM and B-52 upgrades.”
In addition to his work to advance the replacement helicopters for Minot Air Force Base, Hoeven continues his efforts to keep the modernization of the nation’s nuclear forces on track. Doing so will ensure the U.S. has the capabilities required to counter its adversaries, including Russia, China and North Korea. To this end, the senator included the following priorities in the Senate’s FY2024 funding bills:
- Sentinel Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GDSB) – $4.5 billion for ongoing research and development and early procurement of key components of Sentinel, which will replace the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
- Hoeven also secured a provision preventing a reduction in the number of nuclear ICBMs and their silos.
- B-52 Upgrades – $1 billion for ongoing updates to the B-52, including new engines, and adds $39 million for research and development in support of these efforts.
- Long Range Standoff Weapon (LRSO) – $950 million for engineering on the new LRSO, which will be carried on the B-52.
- Upgraded Security Gates – Prioritizes plans to upgrade security gates at Global Strike Command bases like the Minot Air Force Base.
- Weapons Generation Facilities – Requires status updates for Congress on future weapons generation facilities and accelerating the facilities wherever possible.
At the same time, Hoeven advanced similar priorities in the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2024. The NDAA also includes a Hoeven-authored provision to ensure towers, such as wind turbines, do not encroach on ICBM facilities or pose safety hazards to helicopter pilots who keep those facilities secure.
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