The U.S. Air Force is dismantling a program for developing and acquiring aircraft that have played a key role in guarding America’s southern border against drug smuggling by Mexican cartels.
The reliable RC-26 spy airplane is being rapidly taken out of service. There are no plans to replace the model in the fleet used for interdiction of deadly drugs, including fentanyl and methamphetamines.
The Air Force is planning to completely get rid of its fleet of RC-26 surveillance planes that help counter drug smuggling at the border by the end of the month. https://t.co/5qWBwmiQjA
— NEWSMAX (@NEWSMAX) December 29, 2022
National Guard pilots are now being told to discontinue the use of the RC-26 sooner than expected. While they were originally set to be grounded in April 2023, a new set of orders came through in November, moving that deadline up to the end of 2022.
Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said: “Given there is no Air Force specific RC-26B validated requirements nor dedicated funding to support sustainment of the weapons system, the Air Force is moving forward with the retirement of the aircraft.”
Outgoing Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) told CNN this week that he had fought to have the RC-26 program extended or the aircraft replaced. Kinzinger is an Air National Guard pilot.
He said, “Law enforcement lives have been saved by having this asset available. We can see anything weird that’s going to happen.”
Kinzinger has become a high-profile Republican in the eyes of the corporate media as a result of his votes to impeach President Donald Trump and his service on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand-picked January 6 Committee.
He said he met with Joe Biden’s Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall about the border plane program but was told there was “no way the program could continue.” Kinzinger said he was told by Kendall that “DoD business is not, in essence, domestic drug issues even though DoD is one of the primary people responsible.”
However, other Air Force officials have said using unmanned drone aircraft will fill the gap left by discontinuing the RC-26. One unnamed official told CNN that drones will “leave no capability gap.”
As recently as November, the RC-26 planes were used in at least three separate drug busts that netted seizures of around 22,500 fentanyl pills each.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that in fiscal year 2022, almost 15,000 pounds of fentanyl was seized at the southern border. Additionally, the first three months of fiscal year 2023 have set a pace that would see fentanyl seizures more than double the 2022 numbers.