Since 1941, Robins Air Force Base has played a key role in our nation’s national defense. Growing up in Warner Robins, I remember watching B-52s and KC-135s take off to fly around Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
To say Robins Air Force Base is important to the Middle Georgia community and our nation is an understatement. Maintaining Robins’ ability to meet the changing needs of the Air Force has been a personal priority of mine since the day I came to the United States Senate.
For almost three decades, the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) has been critical to Robins and our troops in battle. These planes are the most in-demand piece of equipment at Robins, flying over 125,000 combat hours in support of our troops in five geographical combatant command areas.
Today, JSTARS is still our nation’s premier intelligence and battle management asset. I have always supported JSTARS and still do today. In this year’s defense bill, we’ve ensured the full fleet of JSTARS will be manned, maintained, and funded. We have also secured upgrades needed to keep the fleet viable well into the next decade.
However, to avoid a capability gap, we must think about the future. That is why the U.S. Senate defense bill requires the Air Force to show real progress toward its future system before retiring any of the JSTARS fleet.
We’ve seen Russia and China modernize their air defenses to keep our specialized capabilities farther from potentially contested locations. As a result, there are vast areas of the globe the current JSTARS fleet cannot penetrate today or in the future. Our military needs a system that can provide the key capabilities of the JSTARS platform into these anti-access areas.
This is where the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) comes into play. This month, the Air Force announced the ABMS mission is coming to Robins Air Force Base. This mission will be focused on a new approach to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and battle management. It will be the first of its kind in the military. It will be an important part of reinvesting in our military and ensuring our technological superiority.
What does this mean for Robins? It means the Robins first-in-class facilities and workforce will continue to play a major role in America’s national defense. It means Robins will continue to build on its legacy of service for years to come.
As a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, it is my responsibility to make sure the Air Force can effectively do its part to protect our nation. In that regard, this move with the Advanced Battle Management System is a strong step forward. This is truly exciting, and I could not be prouder that this is happening in my hometown.
David Perdue is a Republican U.S. senator from Georgia and a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.