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GA-ASI opposes possible Chinese corn plant near US airbase

UK Royal Air Force crews are supposed to undergo training on the MQ-9B Protector UAV near the site of a proposed Chinese corn mill in the US. (Crown Copyright)

US defence contractor General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc (GA-ASI), which has a significant presence near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, is urging the US government to block Chinese company Fufeng Group from building an agricultural facility near the military installation, citing national security concerns.

GA-ASI asserted on 20 September that the Chinese government could use the proposed corn milling plant as cover to conduct electronic surveillance or other forms of military espionage. GA-ASI tests and evaluates unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), radar, and other military technology in the local airspace. At a facility near the base, GA-ASI trains UAV pilots and maintainers, and is scheduled to begin training crews from the UK's Royal Air Force (RAF) on their new GA-ASI MQ-9B Protector UAV in 2022.

“The proposed agricultural project represents a major vulnerability for maintaining the necessary secrecy and integrity of classified weapons, communications frequencies, satellite connectivity, and many other technologies vital to global security,” GA-ASI said.

GA-ASI called on the interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) or “another similar authority” to stop the corn milling project. CFIUS reviews whether proposed foreign investment in the US would harm national security. The US Department of the Treasury, which oversees CFIUS, and a US-based attorney for Fufeng did not respond to requests for comment. Spokespersons for the US Air Force and RAF declined to comment at the time of publication.

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