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Grand Forks Air Force Base

Air Mobility Command.png
Part of Air Mobility Command (AMC)

Grand Forks AFB ND - 17 Sep 1997.jpg
USGS aerial photo as of September 17, 1997
Airport type Military: Air Force Base
Owner U.S. Air Force
Location Grand Forks, North Dakota
Built 1956
In use 1957–present
Commander Colonel Donald L. Shaffer
Occupants 319th Air Refueling Wing
Elevation AMSL 913 ft / 278 m
Coordinates 47°57′40″N 097°24′04″W / 47.96111°N 97.40111°W / 47.96111; -97.40111
Direction Length Surface
ft m
17/35 12,350 3,764 Asphalt
Source: FAA[1] and official web site[2]
ND Grand Forks County Grand Forks AFB.svg
LGM-30 Minuteman III missile on display at the entrance of GFAFB.

Grand Forks Air Force Base (IATA: RDRICAO: KRDRFAA LID: RDR), also known as Grand Forks AFB or GFAFB, is a United States Air Force base located in Grand Forks County, North Dakota 15 miles (24 km) west of the city of Grand Forks, North Dakota on U.S. Highway 2.



Grand Forks AFB is the home of the Air Mobility Command (AMC) 319th Air Refueling Wing (319 ARW). The 319th Air Refueling Wing is organized into four distinct groups: Operations, Maintenance, Support and Medical. In addition, the Director of Staff exercises day-to-day authority over several staff agencies that provide direct support to the wing commander.

Flying units of the 319th Operations Group are:

Tenant Units at Grand Forks AFB are:

  • Air Force Office of Special Investigations
  • 10th Space Warning Squadron
  • 373d Training Squadron



Major Commands to which assigned

Central Air Defense Force

Major Units assigned

  • 478th Fighter Group, February 8, 1957 – December 28, 1960
Redesignated: 478th Fighter-Day Wing, December 28, 1960 – July 1, 1963
  • Grand Forks Air Defense Sector, December 8, 1957 – December 1, 1963
  • 4133d Strategic Wing, September 1, 1958 – February 1, 1963
  • 18th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, May 1, 1960 – April 15, 1971
  • 905th Air Refueling Squadron, February 1, 1960 – Present
  • 319th Bombardment Wing, February 1, 1963 – October 1, 1993
Redesignated: 319th Air Refueling Wing, October 1, 1993 – Present

References for history introduction, major commands and major units[3]

Operational History

Due to the continuance of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, Grand Forks AFB was originally built as an Air Defense Command (ADC) fighter-interceptor air base. The site for the base was chosen in 1954 and the land was paid for by the citizens of Grand Forks, the site was located 15 miles (24 km) west of the city. The beginning of the 5,400-acre (22 km2) air base started in 1956 with the construction of a 12,300-foot (3,700 m) runway. In 1957, the air base brought the 478th Fighter Group into service. Between 1957 and 1959, the Grand Forks Air Defense Sector of NORAD and SAGE became operational, which was able to cover three U.S. states and one Canadian province.

In 1958, the 4133rd Strategic Wing (4133 SW) was activated, which would soon add both KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft and B-52 Stratofortress bombers to the unit. 1960 was an important year for GFAFB when the 905th Air Refueling Squadron (905 ARS), the 18th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (18 FIS), and the 478th Fighter Wing (478 FW, which replaced the 478th Fighter Group) were all activated.

In 1962, GFAFB accepted the 30th Bombardment Squadron with B-52Gs from Homestead AFB, Florida and incorporated it into the 4133d Strategic Wing. In 1963, the 319th Bombardment Wing (319 BW) activated, replacing the deactivated 4133rd Strategic Wing. In the same year, the Grand Forks Air Defense Sector and the 478th Fighter Wing were also deactivated, as the base's host switched to the Strategic Air Command (SAC). The 321st Strategic Missile Wing (321 SMW) was also established in November 1963 as the first LGM-30 Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile wing in SAC.

In 1971, the 18th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was deactivated and the 460th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron replaced the unit. The 804th Combat Support group was soon deactivated in 1972, and in 1973 the upgrade of the Minuteman III missiles to 321 SMW was completed. In 1974, although the 460th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron won first place at the William Tell Air-to-Air Competition at Tyndall AFB, Florida, it was deactivated due to the restructuring of the air defense system.

In 1986, the last B-52Gs permanently departed GFAFB, replaced by the B-1B Lancer in 1987. A change in the host unit occurred again, when in 1988, the 42nd Air Division was assigned for base support in place of the 321st SMW.

The next decade would bring some of the biggest changes to GFAFB. In 1991, the 42nd Air Division was deactivated. SAC was officially deactivated on June 1, 1992, and the base initially became part of the newly established Air Combat Command (ACC). The base was later transferred to the new Air Mobility Command (AMC) in 1994 following the departure of the last B-1B aircraft, redesignation of the 319 BW as the 319th Air Refueling Wing (319 ARW) and associated transfer of KC-135 aircraft assets to AMC, and transfer of strategic ICBM assets to Air Force Space Command (AFSPC). The 321 SMW was downgraded to a missile group in early 1995 and deactivated entirely in 1998. GFAFB's first ICBM silo was imploded in accordance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II) in 1999 and the last silo imploded in 2001. [4]

Base realignment, 2005

In May 2005, DoD recommended to the BRAC commission that GFAFB should be realigned. This would prevent the base from being closed, but would result in a significant loss in personnel levels as well as a loss of the tanker mission. To make up for these losses, the Air Force has proposed that a new family of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) missions be located at the base as well as "emerging missions" in homeland security. Also, there have been some signs that the tanker mission might be retained with a new fleet of KC-X planes replacing the older ones.

The 319th Refueling Wing was scheduled to depart by December 2010. The new RQ-4 Global Hawk wing was scheduled to stand-up in mid-2013. Between 2010 and 2013 the base plans to prepare and reconfigure to support the new aircraft.[5]


Historical populations
Census Pop.  %±
1970 10,474
1980 9,390 −10.3%
1990 9,343 −0.5%
2000 4,832 −48.3%
Est. 2007 4,496 −7.0%

It is part of the "Grand Forks, ND-MN Metropolitan Statistical Area" or "Greater Grand Forks". As of the 2000 census, the base CDP had a total population of 4,832. According to the United States Census Bureau, the base has a total area of 8.2 square miles (21.2 km²), all land.

As of the census[6] of 2000, there were 4,832 people, 1,279 households, and 1,230 families residing on the base. The population density was 590.5 people per square mile (228.1/km²). There were 1,516 housing units at an average density of 185.2/sq mi (71.6/km²). The racial makeup of the base was 80.86% White, 8.40% Black or African American, 0.89% Native American, 2.42% Asian, 0.31% Pacific Islander, 2.67% from other races, and 4.45% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.98% of the population.

There were 1,279 households out of which 77.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 88.5% were married couples living together, 4.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 3.8% were non-families. 3.0% of all households were made up of individuals and none had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.41 and the average family size was 3.48.

On the base the population was spread out with 38.4% under the age of 18, 20.4% from 18 to 24, 39.4% from 25 to 44, 1.7% from 45 to 64, and 0.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age Was 22 years. For every 100 females there were 115.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 123.9 males.

The median income for a household on the base was $36,414, and the median income for a family was $36,104. Males had a median income of $24,413 versus $17,750 for females. The per capita income for the base was $11,503. About 4.0% of families and 4.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.6% of those under the age of 18 and none of those 65 and older.


  • 1954 The Department of Defense chose Grand Forks as the site for a new installation.
  • February 5, 1956 Contractors begin construction of the base.
  • February 8, 1957 Air Defense Command (ADC) activated the 478th Fighter Group at Grand Forks AFB as the host unit for the base.
  • September 1, 1958 Strategic Air Command (SAC) activated the 4133d Strategic Wing (Provisional) as a tenant unit at Grand Forks AFB.
  • December 15, 1959 The Grand Forks Air Defense Sector of the North American Air Defense Command became operational with the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) System.
  • May 1, 1960 The 18th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (FIS) was stationed at Grand Forks AFB with its F-101B Voodoos.
  • May 6, 1960 The 905th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) (Heavy), a unit assigned to the 4133d Strategic Wing, received its first KC-135A Stratotanker.
  • December 28, 1960 The 478th Fighter Wing was activated under the ADC and became the host unit for the base.
  • April 29, 1962 The 30th Bombardment Squadron, a unit assigned to the 4133d Strategic Wing, received its first B-52H Stratofortress.
  • February 1, 1963 Strategic Air Command organized the 319th Bombardment Wing (Heavy) at Grand Forks AFB. The 319 BMW became the host wing as the 4133d Strategic Wing deactivated and command of the base transferred from the ADC to SAC.
  • August 19, 1964 Strategic Air Command activated the 804th Combat Support Group (CSG) as the host unit at Grand Forks AFB.
  • September 1, 1964 Strategic Air Command stationed the 4th Air Division, later named 4th Strategic Aerospace Division, at Grand Fork AFB.
  • November 1, 1964 The 321st Strategic Missile Wing (SMW) was organized at Grand Forks AFB and construction began on its Minuteman II missile complex.
  • December 1966 The 321 SMW became operational with the Minuteman II missile.
  • April 15, 1971 Air Defense Command deactivated 18 FIS.
  • June 30, 1971 The 4th Strategic Air Division transferred to Francis E. Warren AFB, Wyoming.
  • July 1, 1971 The 321 SMW assumed host unit duties from the 804 CSG.
  • July 30, 1971 Air Defense Command stationed the 460th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, with F-106 Delta Darts, at Grand Forks AFB.
  • March 8, 1973 The 321st Strategic Missile Wing completed an upgrade to Minuteman III missiles.
  • 1974 The ADC deactivated the 460 FIS.
  • 1986–1987 The 319th Bombardment Wing converted from the B-52G Stratofortress and KC-135A Stratotanker to the B-1B Lancer and KC-135R Stratotanker.
  • June 16, 1988 Strategic Air Command transferred the 42d Air Division (AD) to Grand Forks as the host support unit for the base.
  • July 9, 1991 Strategic Air Command deactivated the 42 AD and appointed the 319th Bombardment Wing as the host unit for the base.
  • September 1, 1991 The 319th Bombardment Wing was redesignated as the 319th Wing. The 321st Strategic Missile Wing was redesignated as the 321st Missile Wing (MW).
  • June 1, 1992 The Air Force deactivated the Strategic Air Command and reassigned Grand Forks AFB to the Air Combat Command. The 319th Wing was redesignated as the 319th Bomb Wing. The 905 ARS was reassigned to the Grissom AFB, Indiana, although it continued to operate from Grand Forks AFB.
  • July 1, 1993 The 321 MW was reassigned to Air Force Space Command.
  • October 1, 1993 The Air Force redesignated the 319th Bomb Wing as the 319th Air Refueling Wing, reassigned it to Air Mobility Command, and reassigned the 905th Air Refueling Squadron to the wing.
  • 1994 As part of restructuring at Grand Forks the Air Force reassigned the 906th, 911th, and 912th Air Refueling Squadrons to Grand Forks AFB.
  • May 26, 1994 The last B-1B Lancer departed from Grand Forks AFB, marking the end of over 30 years of bombers at Grand Forks.
  • July 1, 1994 Air Force Space Command redesignated the 321 MW as the 321st Missile Group (MG).
  • October 1, 1995 The Clinton Administration approved the Base Realignment and Closure IV committee's recommendation to remove 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles from the Grand Forks Air Force Base missile complex and deactivate the 321st Missile Group.
  • April 1997 After a long, harsh winter, the Grand Forks area suffered a devastating flood due to snowmelt and spring rain. Members of the Grand Forks Air Force Base were called into action, first to help protect the town from the rising waters and later to house the victims of the disaster.
  • July 2, 1998 The 321st Missile Group deactivated after 34 years of service at Grand Forks AFB.
  • October 6, 1999 The first missile silo was demolished in accordance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ FAA Airport Master Record for RDR (Form 5010 PDF), effective 2008-07-31
  2. ^ Grand Forks Air Force Base, official site
  3. ^ Mueller, Robert (1989). Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. USAF Reference Series, Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C. ISBN 0912799536; 0160022614
  4. ^
  5. ^ Military Times, "Tankers to leave Grand Forks by December 2010", December 17, 2009.
  6. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  

External links


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