The RC-26 is a modified Fairchild Metro 23 tasked with counternarcotics, manned tactical ISR, disaster response, and civil support missions.
USAF selected the C-26 to fulfill a joint ANG and Army National Guard airlift requirement in 1988, subsequently modifying the airframes to the RC-26 configuration.
The aircraft is equipped with specialized digital cameras, IR video, and communications equipment to enable domestic and international anti-trafficking. The aircraft has a secondary role providing real-time video streaming to responders following hurricanes, wildfires, and other disasters.
In the fire-support role, aircraft sensors can detect fires at up to 80 miles and accurately map them from up to 3 miles away. An extensive communications suite allows communications from 29 to 960 MHz including provisions for plugged-in 800 MHz handheld radio and airphones.
The fleet is currently split between six Block 25R and five Block 20 configured aircraft. ANG priorities include bringing the fleet to a common standard with updated mission management, integrated comms, and upgraded antennas. Critical needs include adding SAR to enable all-weather ground moving target tracking, LOS/BLOS-secure FMV downlinks, avionics modernization, and five-bladed propellers to increase range and short-field performance.
Ongoing upgrades include airspace compliance mods to meet FAA mandates. The ANG was barred from divesting the platform starting in FY20 unless it demonstrates the fleet’s missions can be performed by other assets. RC-26s notably supported wildfire fighting efforts in California, and law enforcement activities during civil unrest in several U.S. cities in 2020.
Contractors: Fairchild (airframe); Elbit Systems (avionics upgrade).
First Flight: 1990.
Delivered: March 1989-1996 (delivered as C-26A/B).
Production: 10 (C-26A); 33 (C-26B); 11 (RC-26).
Aircraft Location: Des Moines Aprt., Iowa; Ellington Field, Texas; Fairchild AFB, Wash.; Fresno Yosemite Arpt., Calif.; Key Field, Miss.; Kirtland AFB, N.M.; Montgomery Regional Arpt., Ala.; Truax Field, Wis.; Tucson Arpt., Ariz.; Yeager Arpt., W.Va.
Active Variant: •RC-26B. Surveillance version of Fairchild C-26.
Dimensions: Span 57 ft, length 59.5 ft, height 16.6 ft. Weight: Max T-O 16,500 lb.
Weight: Max T-O 16,500 lb.
Power Plant: Two Garrett TPE331-12UAR-701 turboprops, each 1,100 shp.
Performance: Speed 334 mph, range 2,070 miles.
Ceiling: 25,000 ft.
Accommodation: Two pilots, navigator/mission systems operator.