No current plan exists to replace the RC-26 aircraft despite the Air Force speeding up the program’s dismantling, as reported by CNN.
Spy planes are used to monitor drug trafficking at the U.S./Mexico border. The National Guard pilots were told to dispose of the aircraft earlier than expected. They were originally supposed to retire the planes by April 2023. They received new orders in November 2022, to dispose of the planes before the end of the year.
Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, stated that he had been trying to get this program extended or replaced. Kinzinger is also a pilot for the Air National Guard.
Kinzinger told the outlet that “this asset saved lives”. He continued, “We can see every weird thing that’s happening.”
Rep. Kinzinger gained a lot of attention after he was one of the two Republicans to vote in favor of the January 6th committee. According to Kinzinger, he met Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall after which he was told basically that the program couldn’t be continued.
Kinzinger claimed the secretary said, “DoD business was not in essence domestic drug problems, even though DoD is the primary person responsible. ”
Officials from Air Force responded to CNN’s story by saying that “their drones would replace any manned aircraft”.
Ann Stefanek spokeswoman for the Air Force and stated that the Air Force is moving to retire the aircraft. “Given there have been no Air Force specific RC-26B valid requirements nor dedicated funding to support sustainment, this weapon system,” CNN reported.
CNN data shows that three separate busts of fentanyl occurred in November 2022. Each bust contained around 22,500 pills.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the fiscal year 2022 saw nearly 15,000 pounds of fentanyl seized at the southern border, the fifth-highest seizure rate of any one drug, with methamphetamine and khat tied for the highest at 175,000 pounds.
However, if the fiscal year 2023 numbers continue on their average, fentanyl seizures will more than double their 2022 totals.
Rep. Kinzinger wrote for the Air Force Times in 2019 criticizing the eventual decision, stating that it “undermines Trump’s border security priorities.”