New set of retired Global Hawk drones coming to Grand Sky, to be repurposed for hypersonic testing

The transfer is expected to be completed by the end of July.

First Global Hawk Block 30s transition to civilian partners
Airmen assigned to the 319th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, perform a maintenance check June 6, 2022, on an RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft at Grand Sky on Grand Forks Air Force Base. The RQ-4 Block 30s will be used at the Test Resource Management Center’s High Speed System Test Department. Located on Grand Forks Air Force Base, Grand Sky is a business and aviation park focused on developing and growing the unmanned aerial systems industry.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Richards)
We are part of The Trust Project.

GRAND FORKS — The U.S. Air Force will be retiring its fleet of Global Hawk Block 30 aircraft and transferring all 20 to Grand Sky near Grand Forks over the next several weeks.

The Block 30 drones will be converted into Range Hawks for the Test Resource Management Center’s Sky Range hypersonic missile testing program, according to a news release from Sen. John Hoeven’s office.

The transfer is expected to be completed by the end of July.

Similarly, four Block 20 aircraft were transferred to Grand Sky last year.

In the news release, Hoeven called the transfer a “win for both Grand Forks and our entire nation.” He added that the Sky Range program will aid in a stronger national defense as the program “will significantly enhance our ability to test and develop hypersonic missiles.”


Currently, the defense department uses an aging fleet of ships deployed across a Pacific Ocean corridor to test hypersonic missiles. However, the DoD can only conduct four to six tests per year. Hoeven’s office says Sky Range would replace the ships, which are expensive to operate, with modified Global Hawks that could deploy quickly and increase testing capacity.

“Between this addition and the Space Development Agency operations center we’ve secured, Grand Sky and the Grand Forks Air Force Base are positioned to be major players in hypersonic missiles, as well as the ISR and satellite missions of the future,” Hoeven said.

John Hoeven
John Hoeven

Grand Forks Air Force Base said airmen of the 319th Reconnaissance Wing divested five RQ-4 Block 30s by transferring them across the runway to Grand Sky earlier this month, according to a GFAFB news release.

“There’s no way to count how many American and allied lives this specific sensor payload saved between the enhanced integrated sensor suite and airborne signals intelligence,” said Col. Timothy Curry, commander of the 319th RW. “Putting those capabilities in the hands of our Airmen created near real-time intelligence for warfighters, decision-makers and command centers.”

The Block 30 divestment is part of the Air Force’s plan to restructure intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to meet national defense priorities and support joint all-domain command and control capabilities.

Gen. C.Q. Brown, Jr., Air Force chief of staff, said in a memo that the “divestment of this weapons system was a tough but necessary resourcing choice we had to make in order to begin realizing a budgeted savings of over two billion dollars.”

Grand Forks’ 319th RW will continue to operate RQ-4 Block 40 aircraft through the late 2020s, the GFAFB release said.


Related Topics: JOHN HOEVEN
Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.
What to read next
A North Dakota Department of Transportation employee was seriously hurt last week when he was hit by a car while repairing a cable median barrier.
Review by North Dakota's assistant Attorney General found no wrongdoing
Christopher Thompson is accused of driving under the influence when he crashed into a tree last month. The crash killed Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association Treasurer Jason Schatzke.
From the vaults of American author and television documentarian William Jackson, The Dickinson Press presents this Dakota Mysteries and Oddities story exploring North Dakota's death penalty and the final words of those few who faced it.