The Air Force’s inspector general is investigating the Air National Guard’s use of RC-26 reconnaissance planes to monitor recent protests.

“Following discussions with the Secretary of Defense [Mark Esper] about shared concerns, the Secretary of the Air Force [Barbara Barrett] is conducting an investigation into the use of Air National Guard RC-26 aircraft to support civil authorities during recent protest activity in U.S. cities,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said Thursday, adding that the IG was leading the investigation.

The New York Times first reported the investigation Thursday.

Stefanek said that the Air Force could not comment further on the ongoing investigation.

Lt. Gen. Scott Rice, director of the Air National Guard, said last week at a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies online forum that the guard has used RC-26s to track civil disturbances, at the request of law enforcement.

The Air National Guard has 11 RC-26 aircraft, and typically uses them for drug enforcement and border patrol operations. The guard received those planes from Air Combat Command.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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