Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown Jr. toured Grand Forks Air Force Base Wednesday and spent time visiting with two of the state's federal delegates.

The tour and briefing were classified, but highlighted in a release distributed after the meeting by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. Also included was Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. According to the release sent by Hoeven's office, the senators also briefed and gathered input from Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski and the Grand Forks Base Mission Support Committee.

Brown not only visited Grand Forks Air Force Base but also the Grand Sky Unmanned Aerial Systems Research and Development Park.

According to Hoeven's recap, the senators outlined to Gen. Brown the unique relationship between the base and Grand Sky, as well as partnerships with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, UND and NASA. Also, Hoeven and Cramer outlined their efforts to support the base’s operation and grow its mission, including:

  • Maintaining Grand Forks Air Force Base as the lead for all U.S. Air Force Global Hawk operations.
  • Positioning the 319th Reconnaissance Wing (RW) at the base to lead future Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
  • The Air Force has committed to keep Grand Forks and its 319th RW at the core of its ISR efforts.
  • The 319th RW will also be responsible for developing and training a new crew force and expanding operational employment tactics for future ISR systems.
  • Upgrading the Global Hawk to support the widest possible set of missions, including improving its ability to reroute around adverse weather.
  • The senators also worked to prevent the retirement of the RQ-4 Global Hawk in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Defense Appropriations legislation and National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
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“Grand Forks Air Force Base is critical to the Air Force’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts, helping to keep our servicemembers better informed in a wide variety of situations around the globe,” said Hoeven, a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee. “That’s why we worked to make Grand Forks the lead for all Global Hawk operations, strengthen this aircraft’s capabilities and prevent its retirement. General Brown’s visit was an important opportunity to help ensure the Air Force commanders understand the important role that the Global Hawk can fulfill in both current and future Air Force missions, as well as the unique UAS environment that we’ve built in this region to maximize the potential of this technology.”

Said Sen. Cramer, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee: “Advanced technology, artificial intelligence, and unmanned aerial systems are the future of Air Force missions, and as this visit to Grand Forks by yet another senior military leader demonstrates, North Dakota is well-positioned to lead the way. I’m glad General Brown accepted our invitation to visit the state and gave our leaders a chance to showcase Grand Forks’ great potential. I look forward to following up with him on what we saw today as we work to support and strengthen the state’s Air Force installations.”