MC-12 Reaches Major
Milestones in Afghanistan
By Capt. Korry Leverett, 455th
Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs.
Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan -- November 2, 2011 -- (AFNS)
-- Airmen from the 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron here achieved three
major milestones in the month of October supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
An MC-12 Liberty taxies out toward the
runway Oct. 19, 2011, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The flight marked the
10,000th combat sortie flown in support of ground operations that led to the
capture or elimination of more than 4,000 targets.
The squadron, which operates the MC-12 Liberty, surpassed
10,000 sorties flown, 50,000 flight hours and supported ground operations that
led to the capture or elimination of more than 4,000 targets.
"The program was brought to Bagram (Airfield) in June 2009
and in less than two years with roughly two dozen airplanes we've been able to
fly 10,000 sorties and 50,000 flying hours," said Lt. Col. James Thompson, the
4th ERS commander. "It's been amazing. According to Headquarters Air Force, we
are the No. 1 sortie rate per manned aircraft in the Air Force. "
In April 2008, then Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates
established a Defense Department-wide Intelligence, Surveillance and
Reconnaissance Task Force to identify and recommend solutions for increased ISR
assets in the Central Command area of responsibility. Gates tasked Air Force
officials July 1, 2008, to acquire 37 C-12 aircraft to augment remotely piloted
"If you take a look at the start of the MC-12 Liberty
program, it was created in about six months," Thompson said. "Because of the
speed at which this platform was brought to the fight, the program was named in
honor of the Liberty Ships, which were mass produced during World War II."
According to Thompson, the MC-12 is the workhorse of the Air
Force. Aircrews hit the maximum flying hours authorized every month, he said.
Airmen from the 4th ERS work seven days a week, with virtually no days off for
Not only do the Airmen work every, day but so do the aircraft.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon or F-15E Strike Eagle is typically retired when it hits
approximately 8,000 flying hours. In the two years since the program was created
more than 4,000 hours have been put on the MC-12s.
To maintain proficiency of the pilots and crews during combat
operations, Thompson instituted a simple process he said he learned as an air
officer commanding at the United States Air Force Academy.
"The way we do it is to have the seniors teach the freshmen,"
Thompson said. "The first month your job is to study. The second through fifth
months your role is to work, and the final month is to teach the new folks. By
making it a cyclical process, it only continues to improve and get better."
With this basic program in place, the squadron has doubled
the number of sorties flown since Thompson arrived in November 2010, with the
same number of aircraft, and increased flight times by 20 percent. Combined with
new tactics and procedures, the unit members have more than doubled the amount
of support provided to troops on the ground.
"Ours is but a small piece in the puzzle," Thompson said.
"This is an 100 percent support asset, and our motto is the customer is always
right. We've received countless feedback -- things like 'We don't want to
operate without you,' or 'You are a godsend.'"