Department of Defense inks drone contract with Northrop Grumman at Grand Sky

The contract was announced in a release from Sen. John Hoeven’s office on Tuesday, Dec. 14.

Grand Sky
Northrop Grumman operates at Grand Sky west of Grand Forks. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Eric Hylden
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The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman to retrofit four Global Hawk drones to be used for hypersonic missile testing.

The contract was announced in a release from Sen. John Hoeven’s office on Tuesday, Dec. 14. Earlier this year, Hoeven hosted George Rumford, director of the DoD’s Test Resource Management Center, at Northrop’s Grand Sky location west of town, in announcing the program, called Sky Range.

Those four Global Hawk drones, sometimes referred to as Block 20s – older models of the drone – were retired from the U.S. Air Force, and brought to Grand Sky at the end of July. In the release, Hoeven touted how effective and efficient the drone will be for hypersonic missile testing purposes.

“With divestment of the Global Hawk Block 20s, we’ve worked to secure a real opportunity to leverage the expertise we’ve built at Grand Sky and repurpose these aircraft to support hypersonic missile testing,” said Hoeven. “Doing so will save the Armed Forces time and money in developing these new missiles, as the new Range Hawks will be much more efficient than the current ship-based test range and support additional options for conducting tests. This contract is an important step in advancing the Sky Range program in North Dakota, and comes as another way our state is supporting a more secure future for our country.”

According to the release, hypersonic missile testing takes place on the Pacific Ocean, with an aging fleet of ships. Positioning those ships for missile testing is costly, time consuming and can only be done four to six times per year. Also, those ships can easily be tracked by adversarial nations.


Drones in the Sky Range program can be deployed more quickly, and increase the number of missile tests that can happen.

The U.S. Air Force operates Global Hawk drones around the world for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Those drones are broken into groups called Block 30 and Block 40, with the latter being the newest. Hoeven is making the case to bring the Block 30s to Grand Sky, should the Air Force discontinue their use.

Related Topics: JOHN HOEVEN
Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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