Twin-engine RC-26 spy planes have been responsible for saving tens of thousands of American lives over the past few years as National Guard pilots have used them to track and apprehend fentanyl smugglers, taking hundreds of thousands of fentanyl pills off the streets.
However, the Air Force has decided to destroy and scrap the planes used in border surveillance and drug enforcement.
The planes were supposed to continue flying missions until funding for the program ran out in 2023, but instead the Air Force abruptly ordered the spy planes be sent to the boneyard to be scrapped for parts this month.
GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who flies the RC-26 as a pilot in the National Guard and has been fighting to keep the planes from being scrapped as they are essential in the fight against fentanyl said that the shift appears to be a move to destroy the planes in order to prevent plans to save them.
"That is the only reason I can see that they have decided to speed it up as quickly as they have," he said.
Kinzinger talked to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall about the planes' essential role but was told in no uncertain terms that drug enforcement was not part of the Department of Defense's priorities under this administration.
"He basically made clear that DoD business is not, in essence, domestic drug issues even though DoD is one of the primary people responsible," Kinzinger said about the meeting.
"We are the only capable border plane. We were pulled from the border under Biden, and they are now killing us," he added.
Law enforcement officials around the country have also made their cases for keeping the RC-26, but all to no avail.
One law enforcement official said that taking away the RC-26 would remove one of the biggest advantages they have in stopping traffickers from flooding the market with the fentanyl and killing swaths of Americans.
"I know the Air Force is trying to say there are other options … but they don't have the same capabilities," he said.
And swaths of America are being killed by these drugs.
Kizinger says that the Air Force believes that unmanned drones can be used to patrol the border instead, but they have not proven as effective as the RC-26.
Despite the concerns of Congress members and law enforcement, an Air Force spokesperson 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."
Given this news and the seeming essential nature of the aircraft, I think we can expect the reports on the horrific numbers of fentanyl being intercepted at the border to decrease dramatically over the next few months.
Who will be there to intercept it, much less report on it?
Honestly, this all sounds very similar to the Department of Homeland Security's blackout on border crossing numbers.
Fudge the numbers at the border long enough, and the border crisis shouldn't even be in the news come election season 2024.