Sen. Byron Dorgan says the Air Force has shared its transition plan for Grand Forks AFB, N.D., taking it from an aerial refueling to an unmanned aerial vehicle mission. According to a statement from Dorgan, Air Force officials said Friday at a briefing at the base that an untold number of tanker aircraft would stay until 2010, at which point the base would shift from Air Mobility Command to Air Combat Command for the new UAV mission. Grand Forks ultimately will host “at least eight Predator and up to eight Global Hawk UAVs” by 2013, says Dorgan. The first Predator is expected to arrive in 2009. As part of this UAV mission, the Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing at Fargo is slated to operate a Predator ground control station, but the Happy Hooligans appear to still be hoping for a manned aircraft program, as well.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.