General Atomics drone at Grand Froks
A General Atomics drone on the tarmac at Grand Forks Air Force Base. Image for Air Force video

Drone maker General Atomics said Tuesday it “firmly opposes” a new Chinese agricultural investment near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.

The San Diego-based company’s aeronautics division, which created the Predator drone and is a leading manufacturer of defense equipment, urged the federal government to reject the purchase of 370 acres for a corn milling plant.

General Atomics aid it uses the local airspace to “conduct significant test and evaluation efforts related to unmanned aircraft, radar systems, and other advanced military technologies” and the secrecy of new weapons would be compromised.

“Chinese business efforts are inextricably linked with Chinese government efforts,” said General Atomics spokesman C. Mark Brinkley. “We can’t ignore the opportunity for sophisticated military espionage to co-locate itself within a Chinese business of such scale and scope.”

“Given the proximity to critical national airspace and sensitive military operations on and around Grand Forks Air Force Base, American leaders should be very, very concerned,” he added.

General Atomics said it has operated in the Grand Forks area for more than a decade and uses a 20-acre site for worldwide training for U.S. and allied military forces using its equipment.

“We understand the significant economic opportunities this proposed agricultural project represents for the people of Grand Forks and the state of North Dakota,” Brinkley said. “But no measure of assurances from the company can ever offset the tremendous risk being introduced.”


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Ellen Bullock