The Air Force is shifting remote-ground control of Global Hawk battlefield airborne communication nodes to Grand Forks AFB, N.D. “The ground segment shelters have actually been relocated … [and] the first couple of missions [have flown] already out of Grand Forks,” said George Guerra, Northrop Grumman vice president for Global Hawk in a briefing at AFA’s Air & Space Conference, Sept. 19. Already home to the Global Hawk Block 40 equipped for ground-target detection, “Grand Forks is turning out to be a hotbed” for Global Hawk operations, said Guerra. “They’ve started supporting the BACN ops and just last Friday morning the first Block 40 arrived.” The Air Force currently operates two BACN-equipped Global Hawks alongside its fleet of three similarly equipped E-11A Global Express jets. A request to convert two additional Block 20s as BACN platforms is pending Congressional approval, though the company has already “identified two more block 20s that would be modified to have the system” at its Palmdale, Calif., facility.
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.