|Gov. Hoeven announces $50 million Air Force contract|
Gov. John Hoeven, UND, and company officials discussed Monday a $50 million Air Force Training contract recently awarded to the University of North Dakota’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Center of Excellence and a team of global defense and aviation technology companies. Private sector partners in the contract are Crew Training International (CTI), Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), and BGI-LLC.
Joining Hoeven for the announcement were Dr. Robert Kelley, UND president; Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota National Guard adjutant general; Col. John Michel, commander, Grand Forks Air Force Base; Al Mullen, president of Crew Training Institute (CTI); Ken Stromquist, business developer, SAIC; Bruce Smith, dean of UND Aerospace; Paul Lindseth, associate dean of UND Aerospace; and Al Palmer, director of flight operations at UND Aerospace and a general in the North Dakota National Guard.
Under this contract, the UAS Center will train instructor pilots for the Air Force, and UND will also provide software and training management programs for the Air Force’s unmanned aerial systems. UND is partnering with the private sector, and also with the Air Force and the North Dakota Air National Guard.
“In addition to training Air Force instructor pilots, we believe that the UAS Center of Excellence at UND’s Odegard School will be the only university-based UAS training program in the country,” Hoeven said. “We also believe the UAS Center at UND can help Grand Forks Air Force Base build their UAS mission.”
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), as they are now called, represent one of the most effective intelligence gathering and counter-terrorism weapons. CTI is the prime contractor for the current project. They are responsible to the government for providing the contracted service, which is conducting ground school training, simulator training and live flight training to Air Force pilots and sensor operators transitioning to the Predator. They are also responsible for maintaining and updating all the courseware and syllabi.
The UAS Center of Excellence at UND is vital to the project, according to CTI’s Mullen. The UAS Center of Excellence will provide several key components:
The Center will provide Predator instructor training for the Air Force in response to mounting need by the Pentagon. The Pentagon has tasked the Air Force to provide 50 orbits over Iraq and Afghanistan on a 24/7 basis. This requires the training of more than 400 Predator crewmen per year.
The Center will furnish the software to manage the flight training program. During the first phase of the contract the UAS Center of Excellence will provide distance learning software that will allow Predator transition students to accomplish many of their lessons via computer-based training. UND graduate students may actually adapt the unclassified lessons to the CBT format.
Beginning in September 2009, UND will launch the first undergraduate program in unmanned aerial systems to Air Force standards. The program will produce prime candidates for postgraduate Predator training. Although not cleared at the time the contract was written, Grand Forks Air Force Base is now approved for launch and recovery training under a Federal Aviation Administration agreement with the Department of Defense. This enhances the capabilities of the UAS Center of Excellence.
As the project moves forward the group anticipates that the availability of former Air Force Predator crews will not be sufficient to fill the instructor vacancies. They plan to set up a parallel training track at UND that will allow them to transition civilian pilots to qualified Predator instructors. Once the effectiveness of this training track is demonstrated the group will make an unsolicited proposal to the Air Force to open a third training site at UND for active duty personnel.
“North Dakota is well positioned to play a leadership role in Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” said Al Palmer, director of flight operations.
“In short, the UAS world is exploding,” said CTI’s Mullen. “New missions are being discovered continually as older weapons systems approach the end of their service life. UND Aerospace involvement with Predator and the UAS Center of Excellence here in North Dakota represents brilliant anticipation and positioning for many opportunities to come.”
“This is good news for the University of North Dakota and our Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence,” said UND President Dr. Robert Kelly. “The award acknowledges one of the things we do best -- train pilots. It also acknowledges the innovative and entrepreneurial approach we have taken to being a world-class program in Unmanned Aircraft Systems. We are grateful to the U.S. Air Force for its continued faith in our programs and for our ongoing partnerships, and we look forward to ongoing partnerships with Crew Training International, Science International Corp, and BGI-LLC.”
Other private-sector partners will provide additional components of the contract:
Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) will provide management expertise alongside CTI. Specifically they will fill the Assistant Site Manager and Courseware Development Director positions. SAIC’s experience in the field will help the team identify some of the additional instructors that will be needed to man this second site.
“SAIC is pleased to be a part of this team and looks forward to helping CTI and the University of North Dakota develop and expand capabilities to train pilots and operators for critical Unmanned Aerial Systems missions,” said SAIC’s Ken Stromquist.
BGI provides operational test and evaluation expertise with respect to networked simulators. Their primary role will be to upgrade the fidelity of the Predator Mission Trainer, configure it for distributed mission operations (networking) and improve the instructors’ working knowledge of the devices. -- Courtesy of Gov. Hoeven's office.