Northland Gets Full-size UAS Model

It was hard to miss the sight of the big white aircraft parked outside Grand Forks’ Alerus Center on Thursday. For Northland Community and Technical College, it’s a big gift from defense contractor Northrop Grumman.

The company announced at the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Action Summit that it was donating the full-scale mockup of a Global Hawk to the college’s aircraft maintenance program in Thief River Falls.

Scott Fletcher, who heads the program, said it’s worth about $1.3 million. But he’s already looking to the future, he said, seeking a used version of the real thing from the Air Force, which is retiring a batch of its oldest Global Hawks. He said he’s also negotiating with General Atomics, to get a used version of the Predator unmanned aircraft.

The mockup is aerodynamically correct, allowing students to see the wing configuration of the aircraft up close, he said. And the size of it makes it a great visual aid for recruitment drives, he said.

The real deal would be even better, he said, because students could then work on real aircraft components.

Northland already has an inventory of used aircraft for its students to tinker with, including a Boeing 737 and various planes and helicopters.

The Global Hawk Block 10, the variant Fletcher is aiming for, has a wingspan of 116 feet, longer than the 737. It’s the Air Force’s premier long-distance reconnaissance aircraft, rushed into service in time for the war in Afghanistan. The newest variant is coming to Grand Forks Air Force Base this summer.

George Guerra, who heads Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk program, said the mockup going to Northland is about as well traveled as the real thing, having been sent to various shows in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and all over the United States.