Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



GFAFB: GF delegation lobbies Pentagon

As the Air Force gets closer to a decision on new tankers, a delegation from Grand Forks met with top brass Wednesday at the Pentagon to talk about why some of those tankers should to go to the local Air Force base.

As the Air Force gets closer to a decision on new tankers, a delegation from Grand Forks met with top brass Wednesday at the Pentagon to talk about why some of those tankers should to go to the local Air Force base.

They also talked about why Grand Forks Air Force Base should be a major base for unmanned aerial vehicles.

"The Air Force was very clear that Grand Forks has an enduring role in their plans, and that's a very positive message to send," said Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown, summing his thoughts on the meeting.

The timing of the meeting is important because the future of both the tanker and the UAV missions soon will be set. The Air Force is expected to pick a replacement for its aging KC-135s in a few months and decide how many more Predator and Global Hawk UAVs it will buy.

Representing the Air Force at the meeting were Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz and Maj. Gen. Charles Stenner, key advisers to Air Force Chief-of-Staff Gen. Michael Moseley. The city's delegation included Brown, City Council President Hal Gershman and John Marshall, a veteran of the city's several struggles to keep the base open.


Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who arranged the meeting, and other members of the state's Congressional delegation were present as well.

So far, Grand Forks Air Force Base has escaped the axe, but how many military personnel and their families it will have down the road remains to be seen. After the last of the base's KC-135s depart in 2010, the UAV mission alone still could mean a reduction in personnel along with the base's economic impact.


engine warm

Conrad noted the neat fit between the KC-135s moving out and the new UAVs coming in, which also should be in the 2010 timeframe, meaning the base will be continuously utilized instead of going into a dormant period.

This is important, Brown and Gershman said, because it keeps the base in the running for new missions as they come along, the one with the most potential being the tanker mission.

According to Conrad, the Air Force will decide on a tanker early in February with production starting later in the year. The very earliest the new aircraft, to be called the KC-45, would be based is 2010.

Still, the timeframe on a decision on where to base the new aircraft is fuzzy.


"Everything is still into the future," Marshall said. "The Air Force is talking positive about it. Beyond that, it's impossible to give any specific date."

The tanker competition is between derivatives of Boeing's 767 and Airbus' A330, which also would involve the American defense contractor Northrop Grumman.

Selling GF

The last time a Grand Forks delegation was at the Pentagon was summer 2006. That was during the battle between Grand Forks and Rapid City, S.D., home to Ellsworth Air Force Base, over which base would get the UAV mission.

Grand Forks won that one, as did Fargo, whose Air National Guardsmen got the job of flying the UAVs.

This time, the Grand Forks delegation, with a lot of help from the state's Congressional delegation, is looking to get not just a UAV presence but a really big one, as well as bring back the tankers.

Grand Forks has two things to offer a UAV mission, according to Conrad and members of the city's delegation.

First is UND's designation by the state as a Center of Excellence for UAVs. The Air Force is interested in university research on issues such as icing on wings, wind shear and the kind of surveillance equipment that can hang off an unmanned aircraft.


Second is the vast uncongested airspace in the region. Because UAVs are flown by remote control, the Air Force would prefer they operate in restricted areas away from manned civilian aircraft. One hitch may be the large number of student pilots honing their skills at nearby Grand Forks International Airport but, according to Conrad, that's not an insurmountable obstacle.

For both the tankers and the UAVs, particularly the Global Hawk and its global reconnaissance mission, Grand Forks Air Force Base's location is a huge advantage. From here, even the other side of the world is within easy access over the North Pole.

Tran reports on City Hall. Reach him at (701) 780-1248 or ttran@gfherald.com or see his blog at www.areavoices.com/gfhcitybeat .

What To Read Next
Get Local