GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today brought Northrop Grumman senior leadership to Grand Forks to see firsthand the opportunities Grand Forks and the region have to offer the company, which manufactures the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle. The project could form the nucleus of a new Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) technology complex linking the private sector and the Air Force Base the senator said.
Hoeven and the Base Realignment Impact Committee’s (BRIC) are working to promote a proposal to acquire land on the Grand Forks Air Force Base, develop it and offer it to private companies to test and maintain Unmanned Aerial Systems equipment and train personnel,. The BRIC committee envisions Northrop Grumman – manufacturer of the Global Hawk and an acknowledged leader in UAS technologies – as an anchor tenant. The company has expressed interest in the idea and Senator Hoeven arranged today’s tour for them.
The project would complement the senator’s efforts to secure a designation for Grand Forks as one of six pilot test sites across the nation for integrating UAS into the National Airspace. The senator was briefed today by the Airspace Integration Team, which is working with the state’s congressional delegation to secure the designation.
“Grand Forks is already the premier northern hub for UAS technology and training, and this new project could form the nucleus of a dynamic new technology complex within it,” Hoeven said. “Combined with our efforts to establish Grand Forks as one of six national UAS pilot test sites for integration of UAS into the National Airspace, Northrop Grumman’s presence would be a great asset.
“It would open a whole new range of opportunities for the Grand Forks Air Force Base, the university and the high-tech businesses that have been clustering in the area to support UAS operations. It would help spark innovation and accelerate efforts to advance the commercialization of UAS technology for valuable civilian uses.”
Federal law allows the Department of Defense to lease available property to public and private sector entities under an Extended Use Lease (EUL) program. Grand Forks County is proposing to lease 200 acres from Grand Forks Air Force Base to be used for UAS activities. The project would be developed in two phases.
In the first phase the east part of the property would be developed and used for maintenance training, aircraft maintenance and training for pilots and sensor operators. Maintenance training would be provided by nearby Northland Technical College. The complex would include buildings with hangar space and classroom activities, and have direct access to the air base runway. The first phase of the project has the potential to create up to 700 jobs.
In the second phase, leased properties on the west side of the base would be developed, and made available for a mixture of aviation uses. It would include twelve buildings, including four with hangar space. There is also space available to develop a data center and mixed-use office building
Access to GFAFB runway will be also be available after taxiway connection is re-established. The second phase has the potential to support as many as 2,000 jobs. The Air Force is expected to decide by early November if it is able to lease to a county on a sole source basis.
The FAA must designate six pilot test sites in the United States for concurrent airspace use by manned and unmanned or RPA (remotely piloted aircraft). The pilot sites are the result of an amendment Hoeven and Senator Kent Conrad introduced to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill passed by Congress earlier this year. Congressman Berg worked to get the measure passed in the House.
The amendment directs the agency to work with the military to integrate UAS into the National Airspace (NAS) and directs the FAA Administrator to develop the six pilot test sites as part of a program for safely flying manned and unmanned aircraft concurrently in the NAS. Further, the legislation requires the FAA to consider geographical and climatic diversity, as well as the location of ground infrastructure, in naming the test sites, ensuring that Grand Forks is competitive.
Hoeven and Congressman Rick Berg will host Arizona Senator John McCain in Grand Forks Thursday to enlist his support for the test site designation. McCain is Ranking Member on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee and a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Northrop Grumman officials participating in today’s tour with Senator Hoeven and Congressman Rick Berg were: Thomas Vice, Corporate VP and President of Aerospace Systems (Effective 1/1/13); Sid Ashworth Corporate VP of Government Relations; Walt Kreitler, Director of BAM UAS Business Development, Aerospace Systems; George Guerra, Vice President, HALE Systems; Ed Walby, Director, Business Development, Global Hawk Enterprise; Erin Pierce, Dir Government Relations; Avis Anderson, Sustainment Program Manager, Global Hawk; Sean Callahan, Global Hawk Enterprise Manager; John Schuller, North Dakota Site Manager, Global Hawk.