San Diego General Atomics: Chinese factory near key airbase poses security threat

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 on Tuesday it “strongly opposes” new Chinese agricultural investment near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.

The aerospace division of the San Diego-based company, 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 milling plant of corn.

General Atomics is helping to use local airspace to “conduct extensive test and evaluation efforts related to unmanned aircraft, radar systems, and other advanced military technologies” and the secrecy of new weapons would be compromised.

“The efforts of Chinese companies are inextricably linked to the efforts of the Chinese government,” said General Atomics spokesman C. Mark Brinkley. “We cannot ignore the opportunity for sophisticated military espionage to be found within a Chinese enterprise of such scope and scale.”

“Given the proximity to critical national airspace and sensitive military operations in 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 used a 20-acre site for worldwide training of US 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 amount of insurance on the part of the company can ever compensate for the enormous risk introduced.”