I grew up in Warner Robins, Georgia. As a member of the United States Senate Armed Services Committee and a former member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I know that Robins Air Force Base is an integral piece of our country’s national security.
Since 1996, Robins has been home to the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System mission. JSTARS is a platform that helps with intelligence gathering and battle management.
JSTARS planes are very much in demand. However, JSTARS is an aging platform. Russia and China have modernized their air defenses to keep America’s specialized capabilities, like JSTARS, out of potentially denied airspace. There are growing areas of denied airspace around the world that JSTARS planes simply cannot penetrate.
The Obama administration had proposed a JSTARS recapitalization that was on track to leave a significant capability gap. We fought that in the United States Senate and House by pushing for a JSTARS recapitalization that would continue the mission in non-denied airspace with new planes and avoid that gap.
Now, President Donald Trump and his national security team have created an opportunity for a long-term solution for both denied and non-denied airspace. The final version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act is supported by President Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
First, the plan in the defense authorization bill secures the future of the JSTARS platform for the next 10 years, including the more than 2,500 jobs that JSTARS supports.
Second, the plan accelerates the development of the Advanced Battle Management System, or ABMS, mission, which is a multidimensional platform that can access both denied and non-denied airspace.
Third, the Air Force has named Robins Air Force Base as the host base of this new ABMS mission. This means that Robins will be a force for years to come, while providing for our long-term national defense by developing this technology more quickly than we would have been able to do otherwise.
Clearly, this is a major win for Robins Air Force Base, the middle Georgia community and for our national defense overall. It provides certainty for the current JSTARS mission for the next 10 years. It accelerates the development of next-generation mission capabilities so desperately needed by our armed forces today.
Finally, the Air Force has assured Robins’ future role in dealing with modern-day threats by naming Robins the host base of the Advanced Battle Management System.
Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., is a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.