Grand Forks Air Force Base is set to take command of another U.S. Air Force squadron, and add to its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission.
On June 30, the Air Force announced the 319th Reconnaissance Wing at GFAFB will take over command of E-11 Battlefield Airborne Control Node aircraft mission, based at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. According to the Air Force, the proposal comes about as part of its efforts to retire four E-8 JSTARS aircraft, to make way for the E-11 mission. The proposal is contingent on congressional approval.
“Bringing the E-11 under the jurisdiction of the 319th Reconnaissance Wing at the Grand Forks Air Force Base is an acknowledgment of the incredible leadership at the base, a recognition of how critical the base is to the nation’s defense, and a reminder of how the base is responsible for much more than what can be physically seen there,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. “(Wednesday's) announcement will also help solidify the base’s long-term success and stability in Grand Forks. I am grateful for the Air Force leaders who made this wise decision, and I look forward to helping ensure its success.”
The E-11 mission is supported by about 290 service members at Robins Air Force Base. Those members won’t be transferred to Grand Forks, and the unit will be considered a “geographically-separated unit” which will report to the 319th Reconnaissance Wing.
According to the GFAFB website, there are only four E-11 aircraft in service, though the Air Force will continue to take delivery to build its fleet inventory. E-11 aircraft function as a flying signal relay, to ensure communication between forces in the air and on the ground.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., lauded the decision to put the E-11 mission under GFAFB’s control. Both Hoeven and Cramer have worked to support the base, by highlighting its capabilities for ISR, drones and communication satellites, and by discussing with high-level Air Force and U.S. Space Fire officials the possibility of conducting research in the region.
“We’ve worked to make Grand Forks a premiere hub for the Air Force’s ISR operations,” said Hoeven. “Placing the E-11 mission under the 319th RW’s command further reinforces these efforts and is a testament to the excellent work of our service members in Grand Forks.”