Global Hawk manufacturer Northrop Grumman on April 21 officially opened an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research and development and crew training facility at the Grand Sky business park near Grand Forks in North Dakota. Grand Sky, which lays claim to being the first such business park in the U.S., also hosts a General Atomics flight-training academy that is expected to officially open this year.
Northrop Grumman’s 36,000-sq-ft building was completed late last year, and employees began working there shortly thereafter, the company said. The facility serves as a site for research and development, aircrew and maintenance training, operations and mission analysis and aircraft maintenance. According to the business park, the building “is positioned in an anchor space along the alert pad at Grand Sky,” allowing quick access to the runway of adjacent Grand Forks Air Force Base for launch and recovery operations.
General Atomics announced in September 2015 that it had signed a 10-year lease at Grand Sky to build a UAS training academy. It has since been operating from temporary facilities at the park, and last July announced the first flight there of a company-owned Predator A. In August, General Atomics graduated its first class of three Predator A pilots, who underwent classroom training in Grand Forks. It expected to add a second training track for the Predator B, which the Air Force has designated the MQ-9 Reaper.
General Atomics has said that it plans to complete construction of its new 16,000-sq-ft flight operations center this spring.
Northrop Grumman was the first tenant to sign a lease at Grand Sky and broke ground on the facility in October 2015. The company plans to build a hangar to take advantage of its access to the Air Force base, which is home to an RQ-4 Global Hawk squadron. In addition to the Grand Sky facility, Northrop Grumman operates a manufacturing site in New Town, N.D., which produces RF and fiber optic cables and wire harnesses for aircraft including the Global Hawk and Boeing F/A-18.
“We are delighted to officially begin operations here at Grand Sky, cementing our leadership in the development and use of autonomous systems in partnership with North Dakota’s UAS community,” Janis Pamiljans, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems president stated at the opening. “The important work performed at Grand Sky will support the evolving needs of our customers while advancing research and development of our autonomous systems capabilities for today and the future.”