The North Dakota Congressional delegation heard Wednesday from Air Force Secretary Michael Donley that Grand Forks Air Force Base will indeed receive a new mission, operating RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 20 unmanned aircraft via a Battlefield Airborne Communications Node Mission Control Element to be installed at the base, pending a favorable environmental assessment. The North Dakota facility, which will lose its last KC-135 tanker in December 2010, can expect to begin the new mission in 2011. In a joint statement, Sen. Kent Conrad (D), Sen. Byron Dorgan (D), and Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D) called the announcement “very good news.” They also noted, though, that they will “continue to make the case for new and expanded missions in Grand Forks, including the next generation of air refueling tankers.” Earlier this year, USAF indicated that the cost to sustain Grand Forks for a tanker mission might be too high. (Air Mobility Command release)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.