Finally on the Fork

Members of the 69th Reconnaissance Group at Grand Forks AFB, N.D., launched one of their RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40 remotely piloted aircraft from Grand Forks for the first time, representing another milestone in Global Hawk operations at the base. Prior to the Aug. 7 mission, these airmen had only controlled Global Hawks operating in Southwest Asia, not ones flying locally. “Our pilots are already flying daily Afghanistan missions remotely from [Grand Forks] and are well trained,” said Col. Scott Winstead, 69th RG commander. However, “we need to work on developing and exercising local process and procedure for the local area so the local flying community gets used to our operation,” he added. Though the unit’s pilots are operational, the group’s Global Hawks have yet to receive their sensor payloads—the MP-RTIP ground-surveillance radar, said group officials. As a result, the unit’s sensor operators haven’t yet qualified on the radar, and prime contractor Northrop Grumman is working with the University of North Dakota to develop the training curriculum. The group’s first Global Hawk arrived at Grand Forks last fall. (Grand Forks report by SSgt. David Dobrydney)