The growing presence of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) at Grand Forks Air Force Base could lead to the Pentagon to reconsider its decision to strip the installation of its fleet of air refueling tankers, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven (R) said last week.
Hoeven’s remarks followed a groundbreaking by Northrop Grumman for a $10 million facility at Grand Sky, a business and aviation park for UAS being developed at the installation through an enhanced use lease. The ceremony marked the start of construction of a 36,000-square-foot building that will employ about 100 people and be used for research, training and other operations, reported the Grand Forks Herald.
“The goal of Grand Sky is a $300 million investment and up to 3,000 people working there and in the surrounding communities,” Hoeven said. “I think it’s vitally important for the future of the base. And not just because of the importance of that mission, but because this is aviation of the future and not the aviation that’s shrinking and going away,” he said.
Hoeven said the future looks bright for the installation, which is quickly becoming a national destination for UAS activities. “To the extent that we can continue to bring in missions that are the missions of the future, it makes all the difference in the world,” he said, reported the Grand Forks Herald.
The installation’s growing profile could make it a candidate to regain a refueling tanker mission in a future BRAC round. The base’s geographic location, along with it existing infrastructure, have positioned it to compete with other bases already hosting air refueling tankers, Hoeven said.