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20 June 2002. Thanks to M, see related nuclear missile field:

17 June 2002
Source of maps and photos: and TerraServer USGS 17 Sep 1997.

Grand Forks Air Force Base:

From the report Taking Stock: Worldwide Nuclear Deployments 1998, by William M. Arkin, Robert S. Norris and Joshua Handler, published in March 1998 by the Natural Resources Defence Council.

Rank: No. 5

Nuclear Warheads: 1140

Grand Forks

NORTH DAKOTA ranks 5th in number of nuclear warheads deployed, a decline from 4th place in 1992 (when 1,650 warheads were deployed), and 3d in 1985. There are two nuclear bases in the state, Minot AFB and Grand Forks AFB. Minot hosts a B-52H Bomb Wing and a Minuteman III ICBM wing. Grand Forks hosts a missile wing but is in the process of transferring 150 Minuteman missiles to Malmstrom. Though there will be no bombers or missiles there shortly a weapons storage area will be maintained and hold nuclear contingency weapons.

Grand Forks was originally conceived as an air defense base and the site was chosen in 1954. By 1956 plans had changed with the base to serve as a Strategic Air Command bomber and tanker base as well. Between 1960 and 1962 a variety of air-refueling, fighter-interceptor, and B-52 bombers (319th Bombardment Wing) arrived at Grand Forks. In December 1966 the 321st Strategic Missile Wing became operational with Minuteman II ICBMs, upgraded to Minuteman IIIs by March 1973. The 319th BW sent its B-52s to other units and received B-1B bombers in 1987.

With reductions mandated by the START agreements, however, the make up at Grand Forks began to change after the Cold War. The last B-1Bs departed in 1994 and the Minuteman III missiles of the 321st Missile Group started being transferred to Malmstrom in a consolidation of four Minuteman III bases to three. The first missile was removed October 4, 1995. All fifty missiles from the 446th Squadron were removed by November 1996. The next fifty from the 448th Squadron were completed in October 1997. The final fifty from the 447th Squadron was originally scheduled for completion in September 1998, but is now estimated to be June 1998. The 321st Missile Group is scheduled to inactivate in September 1998. Actually of the 150 MM IIIs removed from Grand Forks, 120 will go to Malmstrom and 30 to Hill AFB, UT as spares.

Forty nine people will stay at Grand Forks after Group inactivation through at least the end of 1998 as transition team members required to finish up duties such as disposal of equipment, hand over of the WSA, and historical documentation. Grand Forks will have neither bombers nor missiles but will retain, much like Fairchild AFB, a weapons storage area for the storage of reserve nuclear weapons.

The remaining 319th Air Refueling Wing at Grand Forks has an odd status, fully nuclear certified and operating a Weapons Storage Area (WSA) even though bombers have left the base. The 319th ARW and the subordinate 319th Security Police Squadron at Grand Forks AFB received excellent Appendix C U.S. Nuclear Weapons, Location Profiles, and outstanding ratings in their 1994 NSI. The Wing was awarded the nuclear surety plaque in 1994 “for distinguished performance.” It also received a 1996 USAF Nuclear Surety Plaque.

The Weapon Storage Area at Grand Forks is presumably being used to store the bomber weapons that are part of the “hedge” and/or reserve stockpile. The START II Treaty requires that, “Each Party shall locate storage areas for heavy bomber nuclear armaments no less than 100 kilometers from any air base where heavy bombers reoriented to a conventional role are based.” (Article IV, Section 10) Since the Treaty permits bombers reoriented to a conventional role to be returned to a nuclear role, the weapons at Grand Forks, Fairchild, and in storage depots seems to be for such a future contingency.


Grand Forks WSA Coordinates:

47N 56' 24", 97W 22' 33"

5,310,900.0, 621,300.0