The Grand Forks region’s growing unmanned aircraft industry just might be the biggest lure — besides Grand Forks Air Force Base itself — in the base’s efforts to land a new air refueling mission.
A federal survey team will visit the base late this month to assess its potential to serve as the active-duty main operating base for the new KC-46A flying tanker.
Local and state officials are highlighting the base’s many assets, including its previous history with flying tankers, the new mission with the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system, and the cluster of unmanned aircraft businesses and schools that have emerged nearby.
“The UAS has tremendous value, tremendous opportunity,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. “But it also enhances Grand Forks for a possible tanker base down the line. As long as we have a robust UAS mission, it keeps us in the game in the long run.”