Hoeven Presses Case With Air Force Secretary, Chief of Staff for KC-46 Tanker Mission at Grand Forks

BISMARCK, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven this week spoke with U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh to again press the case for basing the KC-46A tanker mission at Grand Forks Air Force Base, as well as for strong continued support for the base’s Global Hawk unmanned aerial systems mission.

The Air Force in January announced that Grand Forks Air Force Base had been selected as one of four finalists on the active duty base list to receive the KC-46A aerial refueling tanker mission. The Air Force is currently reviewing the list of finalists before announcing in May 2013 which of the four bases will receive the active duty tanker mission in the first round. The Air Force will hold a second round to base the of KC-46A in the future.

The senator told Donley and Welsh that the base is ready, willing and able to assume the tanker mission. He emphasized the base’s outstanding infrastructure and previous experience with the KC-135 refueling tanker. “It’s a well-equipped, cost-effective facility with strong community support,” Hoeven said.

The senator also pressed Donley and Welsh for continued support for Grand Forks’ Global Hawk mission. Hoeven worked to get funding and language in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget to establish six UAS pilot sites around the country to integrate UAS into the National Airspace, and with clear, uncongested air space, Grand Forks is an ideal location for testing UAS in concurrent airspace.

“The Global Hawk is the mission of the future, combining leading-edge technology with consummate pilot skill, but it also keeps us in strong contention for a second round of KC-46 tanker missions,” Hoeven said. “Whatever the Air Force decides in this first round, we will be well positioned down the road.”

Hoeven last month announced that Northrop Grumman is committed to entering a strategic alliance with key Grand Forks partners and working toward an Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) agreement. The EUL would make the leading global aerospace and defense technology firm a tenant in the air base’s new high-tech complex.

The senator told Donley and Welsh that the agreement would put the UAS mission in a position to collaborate with an acknowledged leader in the aerospace industry and the manufacturer of the Global Hawk, as well as with the Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at the University of North Dakota.

“The Air Force will gain valuable support for operations and activities at the base and UND, and Northrop Grumman will benefit from the unique assets available at the base,” Hoeven said. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”