I’ve visited only two US Air Force Bases in my life. One was in Colorado Springs where our friends (2 Air Force veterans) gave us a tour of the training facility and some of the planes on exhibition, a very memorable visit. My second was this Air Force Base (AFB) in North Dakota, where one can visit a diverse display of aircraft and missiles outside the main entrance gate. Apparently free guided tours of these aircraft can be arranged for groups of 6 and more with 2 weeks notice, but as just my father and I were visiting and ours was a spur-of-the-moment decision, this didn’t apply to us. We did not actually enter the AFB, just explored the planes outside the entrance gates.
Grand Forks AFB, home of the “Warriors of the North”, is actually 15 miles west of the city of Grand Forks. It is the land to the 319th Air Base Wing, the only base in Air Mobility Command to receive remotely piloted aircraft systems (drones). The AFB is home to about 6,300 individuals, mostly Active Duty Military and their families, but also a few hundred civilian employees and retirees.
The base was built on a 5,400 acre site in the mid-1950s during the height of the Cold War. At that time, it was intended as an Air Defence Command fighter interceptor base. Grand Forks AFB was reassigned from the Air Defense mission to Strategic Air Command (SAC) and in 1963 became home to Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The primary mission of the base changed in 2013 to the launch, recovery and maintenance of unmanned air vehicles. Grand Forks AFB is home to The 319th Air Refueling Wing, one of only three “super tanker” operations in the USAD, which facilitates the far reach of all types of aircraft by fueling them during flight (a skill I’ve always found amazing).
My father was fascinated by the aircraft on display as was I. We spent well over an hour looking at the fine craftsmanship and engineering of these planes, which included:
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