General Atomics may open ND UAS training facility

By Patrick C. Miller | July 09, 2015

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. might be joining Northrup Grumman as the latest tenant in the Grand Sky UAS business and aviation park adjacent to the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Air Force Base.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., announced a tentative agreement with General Atomics as a tenant at Grand Sky, a 217-acre site adjacent to the Grand Forks Air Force Base that will provide 1.2 million square feet to the UAS industry.

Frank Pace, president of General Atomics’ Aircraft Systems Group, and Bart Roper, the company’s vice president of strategic development, were hosted by Hoeven and Cramer on Monday to review UAS assets in the region. Following the visit, a tentative agreement was announced to establish a UAS training academy at the Grand Sky facility.

The Air Force base operates the General Atomics Predator and the Northrup Grumman Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). U.S. Customs and Border Protection also operates the General Atomics Reaper from the air base. Northrup Grumman has signed on at Grand Sky’s first tenant.

Hoeven and Cramer have been working with General Atomics to site a training center in the Grand Forks area to help train Air Force personnel to operate UAVs.

“Today was a big step forward,” Hoeven said. “By working together, General Atomics and Grand Forks can help to solve a real challenge for the Air Force and at the same time help to create good jobs and build Grand Forks as a premier hub for UAS training, research, testing and manufacturing.”

A training facility at Grand Sky would help the Air Force address a shortage of UAS pilots. The U.S. House passed language in the National Defense Authorization Act directing the Secretary of the Air Force to assess the use of a civilian contractor or enlisted pilots to fly UAV missions. The House also recommended $145.1 million in flight training, operation and maintenance for the Air Force to increase UAV training capacity.

“I am pleased General Atomics tentatively agreed to locate a UAS training facility at Grand Sky,” Cramer said. “This decision is testament to the hard work and dedication of local officials to attract new high tech opportunities to the area.”          


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