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US Air Force investing in Grand Forks AFB as ISR hub

EQ-4 Block-20 Global Hawk
US Air Force photo of an EQ-4 Block-20 Global Hawk sits outside a hangar at Grand Forks Air Force Base.

The US Air Force Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, is poised to become an intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) hub with infrastructure planning for construction and renovation projects slated for a 2022 start.

The works themselves are projected to begin in 2023.

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall approved the plan, which will provide the construction and renovations necessary to enable the 319th Reconnaissance Wing to develop and train crews in support of future ISR missions.

The announcement comes as the Air Force looks to restructure ISR capabilities to meet national defense priorities and support joint all-domain command and control capabilities.

“We’re excited to provide vital strategic capabilities to the Joint force,” said Col. Timothy Curry, 319th RW commander. “Grand Forks AFB will remain central to the Air Force core ISR mission today and in the future.”

The Air Force plans to budget for construction and renovation projects to occur during 2023-2026 to support future 319th RW missions.

The plan includes expanding the number of operational units under the command of the 319th RW that are involved in next generation missions, such as E-11 Battlefield Airborne Control Node aircraft mission at Robins AFB, Georgia, starting in 2022 and a second geographically separated unit in the future.

The Department of the Air Force’s fiscal year 2022 budget request is seeking the divestment of the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System and RQ-4 Block 30 aircraft, to fund modernization and increase capability to counter threats posed by near peer competitors like China and Russia.

Divested aircraft can be transferred to other military components or federal agencies if there is a requirement, the service said.

As these new missions take shape, Grand Forks AFB’s 319th RW will continue to operate RQ-4 Block 40 aircraft through the late 2020s.