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Air Force to Halt Air Surveillance That Spots Fentanyl, Kinzinger Says

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who serves as a pilot in the Air National Guard, is sounding the alarm about plans to cut funding for a little-known military surveillance aircraft that law enforcement officials tell CNN is an essential tool for dismantling drug trafficking organizations and helped them take tens of thousands of illegal fentanyl pills off the streets last month alone. Kinzinger is among a group of Air National Guard pilots who operate the twin-engine RC-26 aircraft and have helped law enforcement agencies target large shipments of fentanyl that are flowing into the U.S. from across the border.

Despite being described as an essential asset for law enforcement officials on the ground as they carry out raids and serve search warrants, the aircraft finds itself on the chopping block as Air Force leaders are planning to scrap the program, Kinzinger says. "Law enforcement lives have been saved by having this asset available,” said. “We can see anything weird that’s going to happen." He said pilots can also follow suspects with their aerial camera without them knowing, allowing agents to maintain the element of surprise. “We’ve been saving it every year piecemeal,” he said. “The guard has made it very clear. It’s gone in April.”


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