ISR Aircraft Hones In On Strategic Agility
ISR Aircraft Hones In On
By Staff Sgt. Torri Ingalsbe,
Air Force Public Affairs Agency, Operating Location.
Washington D.C. – (AFNS)
– November 10 – Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities have
been in high demand from combatant commanders. In order to meet this new
operational demand, Air Force officials answered the call back in 2008 by
rapidly acquiring and deploying the MC-12W Liberty.
Airmen from the 361st Expeditionary
Recon Squadron prepare an MC-12W Liberty
“The Liberty program set new acquisition, training and
deployment benchmarks for the Air Force,” said Lt. Gen. Bob Otto, the Air Force
deputy chief of staff for ISR. “It enabled the deployment of a full combat
squadron of aircraft to the war zone in less than 10 months and the fielding of
three full combat squadrons to theater operations in less than a year.”
The MC-12W Liberty is a highly modified Hawker-Beechcraft King Air 350 aircraft,
specially fitted to collect intelligence information critical to the success of
ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2008 the nation was deeply embroiled
in both conflicts with 33 combat air patrols (CAPS) and 203,314 hours of full
motion video to support 150,000 Soldiers and Marines. The joint force needed
more assistance and intelligence. The MC-12W became the fastest delivering
weapon system since the P-51 Mustang in World War II, with only eight months
from contract to combat.
As America currently transitions security responsibilities in Afghanistan, the
Air Force is divesting the MC-12 to the Army and Air Force Special Operations
Command so it can invest in capabilities suited for highly contested operations.
Even so, the MC-12 will be regarded as an extraordinarily successful program.
During the 400,000 combat hours flown, the MC-12W Liberty aided in the kill or
capture of more than 8,000 terrorists, discovered more than 650 weapons caches,
helped divert convoys around improvised explosive devices, provided over watch
for large numbers of coalition forces, and saved coalition lives.
Recently, a portion of the MC-12W fleet has transferred from Air Force to Army
control. This seamless transfer allowed for no mission interruption in
“Airmen and Soldiers became integrated aircrews in (fiscal year 2014) and never
skipped a beat,” Otto said. “The Soldiers helped us meet the strong demand for
MC-12 sorties; they performed superbly — we could not have done it without them.”
The relationship will continue through next year, officials said, only the Army
will own the aircraft and Air Force crews will augment Army personnel. The Air
Force will provide the processing, exploitation and dissemination of MC-12W
information in fiscal 2015, in support of Army missions. In fiscal 2016, Army
personnel will take on the whole mission.
“Conditions are always changing on the battlefield and approximately 45 percent
of MC-12 sorties are dynamically retasked in flight as priorities shift in the
battlespace,” Otto said. “The superb inter-service cooperation between Soldiers
and Airmen allows this aircraft to continue providing combatant commanders with
the flexibility and agility needed in ISR capabilities.”
The transfer of MC-12s to the Army and Special Operations is part of the
strategic shift envisioned in the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The QDR
directs a shift from Counterinsurgency (COIN) focus to more balance with ability
to prevail/defeat adversaries in a high-end highly contested fight.