Hoeven Statement on Re-Designation of Grand Forks Air Force Base

Senator Worked To Establish & Maintain UAS Operations at Base, Laid Groundwork for Its Leadership in Global Hawk Missions

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today issued the following statement marking the re-designation of the Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB) as an Air Reconnaissance Wing, establishing it as the lead base for U.S. Air Force Global Hawk operations. Last month, Hoeven joined then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in announcing the base’s new role, which gives it authority over the following fleet:

  • Four Block 20 Global Hawks carrying the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) assigned to Grand Forks.
  • 18 Block 30 Global Hawks carrying a variety of sensor payloads assigned to Beale Air Force Base in California.
  • 11 Block 40 Global Hawks carrying advanced radar to track moving ground targets assigned to Grand Forks.

As governor, Hoeven worked to bring the RQ-4 Global Hawk mission to the GFAFB. Following this, Hoeven secured legislation as a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations to:

  • Prevent the Department of Defense from retiring the Global Hawk.
  • Provide $100 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 to procure an additional Global Hawk with the BACN payload, which serves as a communications relay for ground forces that might otherwise be unable to contact each other. This is bolstered by an additional $115 million of authorized funds in the Senate’s recently-passed FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
  • Secured $8 million in funding in FY2018 to develop a universal payload adapter for the Global Hawk Block 40. This will allow the aircraft to carry many different types of sensors and serve in a wide variety of missions.

“After we initially brought the Global Hawk to Grand Forks, we worked hard to preserve this mission, as the Air Force under the previous administration wanted to move away from the aircraft in favor of the U-2,” Hoeven said. “These efforts gave our airmen a chance to prove the Global Hawk’s potential, while at the same time, we continued to make investments through annual appropriations bills to upgrade its capabilities. As a result, we have been able to demonstrate that the Global Hawk is indispensable. These years of work have helped bring us to the base’s new role, which is the next step in establishing Grand Forks as one of the Air Force’s premier intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance bases.”

Bringing the Global Hawk to Grand Forks

Following the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round, Hoeven sought to kick start the unmanned aerial systems industry (UAS) in North Dakota and worked with the Air Force, National Guard Bureau and BRAC Commission to secure unmanned missions in Grand Forks and Fargo. His efforts to advance this priority include:

  • Establishing the Center of Excellence for UAS Research, Education and Training at the University of North Dakota, the first collegiate program of its kind in the nation.
  • Facilitating an enhanced use lease between Grand Forks County and the Air Force, leading to the creation of the Grand Sky UAS Research and Development Park.
    • Hoeven secured Northrop Grumman, which manufactures the Global Hawk, as the park’s anchor tenant.
  • Arranging a meeting between the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration to begin efforts toward integrating UAS into the national airspace.
    • This was the precursor to Hoeven’s legislation that established the nation’s six UAS test sites, including the North Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks.