US Air Force retires RC-26 reconnaissance aircraft
The USAF’s 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wisconsin, retired its RC-26B reconnaissance aircraft after its final mission at the end of 2022, the USAF said in early January.
The withdrawal of the platform was a part of the USAF’s decision to retire all 11 of its RC-26Bs nationwide. It was a cost-saving measure, replacing the piloted reconnaissance assets with UAS.
The USAF has argued that there will be no capability gap, but that remains to be seen.
Pilots at the 115th Fighter Wing and military information support operators were flying the RC-26 to support both state and federal counter-narcotics, counterinsurgency and homeland security missions.
The USAF said the RC-26 has been an integral part of the Air National Guard’s Counterdrug Program.
In its domestic operations role, the RC-26 and its crews have provided law enforcement with observation support, including identifying and tracking suspects.
It has also provided covert support, which assists law enforcement agencies in gathering evidence that can ultimately lead to takedowns of drug trafficking organisations.
While most of the focus of the aircraft’s mission has been on supporting law enforcement, RC-26 pilots also assisted other agencies during natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Maria.
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