Viewpoint: Hypersonic missile testing comes to GrandSky

SkyRange, along with all the operations and research happening at GrandSky, is bolstering the North Dakota economy with high-quality, high-paying careers.

Tom Swoyer.jpg
Tom Swoyer Jr., president of Grand Sky Development Co. (Grand Forks Herald photo)
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The Test Resource Management Center (TRMC) recently presented the future of hypersonic missile testing for the Department of Defense (DoD) to North Dakota leaders at GrandSky. The future is the SkyRange program.

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SkyRange represents a significant investment by TRMC in the Grand Forks region as GrandSky will become the home of the global program. This assignment is already accelerating the future of the industry and our region faster and more significantly than anyone could have anticipated.

TRMC is a DoD agency with a critical mission – ensuring entities like the Air Force have the test & evaluation (T&E) infrastructure and tools to stay ahead of our adversaries. From cyber security to joint mission environment test capability, TRMC helps all branches of the DoD stay technologically ahead.

Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer, and local aviation and business leaders from GrandSky, i3, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics, Stratolaunch, Torch Technologies, CDSI, Blue Halo, Honeywell, and Raven were onsite to provide information to stakeholders and the community about the SkyRange program and discuss its benefits for the region.

The SkyRange program involves converting retired Global Hawk aircraft for use in hypersonic missile testing. There are former US Air Force Block 20 and Block 30 aircraft which have been retired by the Air Force but will find new life at GrandSky. They will be converted to Range Hawks and outfitted with all new sensor equipment dedicated to looking up into the skies instead of down at the ground. SkyRange is the future of testing as these Range Hawks will reduce test costs, significantly improve “up-time,” and allow for more tests in far flung locations around the globe. SkyRange provides an alternative to costly, cumbersome, and difficult traditional testing methods for hypersonic capability development.


A huge “thank you” goes out to TRMC which turned to GrandSky, the nation’s first commercial UAS-focused business park, to help support this innovative effort. Together with Grand Forks Air Force Base, our congressional delegation, the governor’s office and state legislature, we will continue our long history of excellence in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, and conduct crucial testing faster, cheaper, and better. GrandSky was conceived to be able to support a program like SkyRange. GrandSky has the tools, amenities and capabilities to develop and integrate advanced sensors, support flight operations, and develop the facilities to support such a large fleet of unmanned air vehicle systems. More specifically, GrandSky is perfectly positioned to support the national security mission of the DoD.

SkyRange, along with all the operations and research happening at GrandSky, is bolstering the North Dakota economy with high-quality, high-paying careers, and it’s continuing to grow. SkyRange represents a significant economic development opportunity for North Dakota and the entire Grand Forks Region as Range Hawks will stay in Grand Forks for years to come and support new missions with new capabilities. This means jobs, investment, and economic growth in the UAS and aerospace sectors are coming to Grand Forks and North Dakota, now and in the foreseeable future.

Thomas Swoyer Jr. is president and partner of Grand Sky Development Company, LLC.

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