Grand Forks AFB, ND Image 1
    Grand Forks AFB, ND Image 2

    Grand Forks AFB, ND History

    Grand Forks AFB is a rare example of an Air Force Base that was never an Army base, built after World War Two, and named for a local community. Ongoing Cold War tensions led the Air Force to desire a northern and central observation and fighter-interception base. The base was chosen in 1954, following a community land donation by citizens of Grand Forks, established in 1955, and constructed over 1956-57. The first fighter-interceptor unit housed at Grand Forks was the 478th Fighter Group, followed shortly by the 18th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (now the 18th Aggressor Squadron) flying the then cutting-edge F-101B Voodoo supersonic interceptor. Grand Forks also installed a state-of-the-art ground control center for the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) early warning radar system in 1958, making Grand Forks AFB responsible for alerting US defense forces in the event of a Soviet first strike attack, until improvements in radar technology rendered the system obsolete.

    Grand Forks AFB was reassigned to Strategic Air Command in 1963, which established strategic global bomber and missile units at Grand Forks, including the 4133rd Strategic Wing (renamed 319th Bombardment Wing), the 4th Air Division, the 321st Missile WIng, and the 460th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. 1963 saw the assignment of the 319th Bombardment Wing, which became the long-serving unit of Grand Forks.

    Grand Forks AFB was part of the late 1960s-early 1970s project to defend US airspace with a anti-ballistic missile system, and construction on the system was completed before the ABM Treaty required the system to be deactivated.

    The end of the Cold War led to a series of force reductions at Grand Forks AFB and transfer to Air Force Space Command. In the 2000s Grand Forks was realigned to meet current needs, the 319th was redesignated the 319th Air Base Wing and refocused on airlift, air refuelling, operations and maintenance missions and support, and gained the 69th Reconnaissance Group, operating RQ Global Hawks.