The U.S. Air Force announced Wednesday that Robins Air Force Base is getting a new battlefield management mission that will include drones.
The base will host the Advanced Battle Management System, a new global air space intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information system mission, said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
The mission will not mean new jobs for now, but it could in the future, said Dan Rhoades, director of strategy for the 21st Century Partnership, a Robins booster.
J-STARS will be a part of the Advanced Battle Management System along with other current and future platforms that specialize in tracking enemy activity and managing troops on the ground. That will include drones to be based at Robins.
"It’s absolutely fantastic news," Rhoades said. "It recognizes the air reconnaissance capabilities at the base. This is going to be new, advanced technologies — some of which don’t exist today — that we are going to be on the leading edge of here in Middle Georgia."
The 21st Century Partnership, a community group that works to protect jobs at the base and bring new missions, has estimated that J-STARS is responsible for 3,000 jobs at the base, including about 1,000 guardsmen, 1,200 active duty personnel and support jobs. But the long-term future of those jobs has been in doubt as the Air Force has backtracked on plans to buy new planes for J-STARS in favor of pursuing a new platform.
Chrissy Miner, president of the 21st Century Partnership, said it's too soon to know how the number of jobs at Robins might change in the long term, but she said the new mission could potentially could mean more jobs than those currently employed with J-STARS. A release by the base said "there is no intent to reduce the manpower at Robins" as a result of the new mission.
U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, who represents the 8th District, which includes Robins, and Georgia's U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson hailed the announcement in a release Wednesday.
“Secretary Wilson’s decision today further acknowledges the critical role Robins Air Force Base and Georgia play in our national security, and I welcome this basing decision to Middle Georgia,” Scott said in the release. “I look forward to continue working with the Air Force as we provide for today’s needs while also developing technology for tomorrow.”
The Air Force stated that the Advanced Battle Management System "will be a next-generation system-of-systems integrating battlefield surveillance information and providing commanders with better situational awareness in combat."
The Air Force currently plans to scrap the J-STARS system by the mid 2020s, but some continue to fight for buying new planes.