Senator John Hoeven today said the U.S. Senate has passed the final FY 2013 Defense Authorization bill with provisions supporting North Dakota air base missions. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation late last week, and it now goes to the President to be signed into law.
The legislation includes measures that ensure continued funding and operations for the Global Hawk unmanned aerial systems based in Grand Forks, the B-52 bomber and intercontinental ballistic missile system (ICBM) based in Minot. It also directs the Air Force to maintain another 32 C-130 or C-27J aircraft to meet Army requirements and establishes a commission to review the aircraft, some of which were going to be retired. The Fargo Air Guard is in line to base the C27J and Hoeven said he will continue pushing the Air Force to deliver three C-27J aircraft that have already been manufactured to Fargo.
"The Defense Authorization bill provides our military with the resources and tools they need to defend our nation and keep us safe," said Hoeven. "The legislation supports many of North Dakota's priorities to ensure the men and women who serve our nation continue to play a key role in our national security."
Grand Forks Air Force Base
Grand Forks Air Force Base received its first Global Hawk last year as part of the base's new unmanned aerial systems mission. The Defense Authorization bill fulfills the Pentagon's request for FY 2013 funding to procure the RQ-4 Global Hawk, strengthening Grand Forks' new unmanned aerial systems mission. Separate appropriations legislation also instructed the Air Force to use prior-year funding to complete Global Hawk purchases that will eventually replace the aging U-2 spy plane.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk program calls for 31 Block 30 Global Hawks and 11 Block 40 Global Hawks, which will eventually be used to phase out the older U-2 manned surveillance aircraft with a safer, more modern unmanned system. Replacing the U-2 will strengthen the UAS mission at Grand Forks Air Force Base, which is home to several Global Hawk Block 40 aerial systems, by expanding the Global Hawk's mission. Hoeven is working with the city and the air base to make Grand Forks the premier northern UAS center in the country.
Minot Air Force Base
The legislation includes Senator Hoeven's amendment to support and modernize all three legs of the United States nuclear triad, including nuclear bombers and both land-based and sea-based ICBMs.
The Minot Air Force Base is home to both the 5th Bomb Wing and the 91st Missile Wing. The bill authorizes $156 million in ICBM-related procurement and $280 million for ICBM-related research and development. In addition, the measure provides $63 million in B-52-related procurements and research and development. The ICBM and B-52 funding will be used to modernize the fleet and extend their service life.
Fargo Air Guard
The final version of the Defense Authorization bill directs the Air Force to maintain another 32 C-130 or C-27J aircraft to meet Army requirements. It also establishes a commission to review the aircrafts, some of which were going to be retired. The Fargo Air Guard is in line to base the C27-J, which is a smaller, more flexible cargo aircraft that is able to operate in remote and rough environments and can take off and land from unprepared surfaces and short strips. Hoeven said it makes sense to retain the aircraft because the C-27J is newer and less expensive to operate than the large C-130 and said he will continue pushing the Air Force to deliver three C-27J aircraft that have already been manufactured to Fargo.