News>Project Liberty: Final MC-12 deploys to Middle East
The MC-12 Liberty aircraft, assigned to the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, is a manned, special-mission turboprop aircraft designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The 361st ERS was activated May 1 at Kandahar Airfield. Lt. Col. Darren Halford is the first commander of the new unit. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nancy Hooks/Released)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD Afghanistan-- An MC-12W takes off from Dec. 29, 2009. This is the first mission of the newly activated 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by: Tech. Sgt. Jeromy K. Cross)
by Master Sgt. Russell Petcoff
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
7/13/2010 - WASHINGTON -- The 30th MC-12 Liberty was recently deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility completing the initial deployment plan, an Air Force official announced July 9.
"We mobilized a significant industry base and every resource at our disposal and delivered the first Federal Aviation Administration-certified aircraft in six months and three weeks," said Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. "It began flying combat sorties in less than eight months."
"This was an extraordinary team effort by a hand-picked, incredibly dedicated industry and Air Force team," General Deptula said. "The MC-12W is the fastest weapons system delivered from concept to combat since the P-51 Mustang in World War II."
The MC-12W is a medium- to low-altitude, twin-engine turboprop aircraft. Its primary mission is providing ISR support directly to ground forces.
The aircraft has had a positive impact in the theater, General Deptula said. It has assisted in the capture of hundreds of insurgents, and the discovery of weapons caches and improvised explosive devices.
The MC-12 fleet has flown more than 5,000 combat sorties and taken more than 22,000 hours of full-motion video and more than 40,000 images to date.
"This project is an unqualified success and the model for how we should develop and deliver quick-reaction ISR capabilities," General Deptula said.
The aircraft are military versions of the Hawker Beechcraft Super King Air 350 and Super King 350ER. They are equipped with an electro-optical infrared sensor and other sensors as the mission requires. The EO/IR sensor also includes a laser illuminator and designator in a single sensor package. A fully operational system consists of a modified aircraft with sensors, a ground exploitation cell, line-of-sight and satellite communications data-links and a robust voice communications suite.
The MC-12 capability supports all aspects of the Air Force irregular warfare mission -- counter insurgency, foreign internal defense and building partnership capacity -- and is capable of worldwide operations.
In April 2008, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates established a Department of Defense-wide ISR Task Force to identify and recommend solutions for increased ISR in the CENTCOM theater. Secretary Gates tasked Air Force officials July 1, 2008, to acquire 37 "C-12" class aircraft to augment unmanned systems. It was less than eight months from funding approval to the delivery of the first aircraft in theater.
"The entire Project Liberty team worked seamlessly to get this airborne ISR capability to the AOR as quickly as possible," said Lt. Gen Craig Koziol, the DoD ISR Task Force director. "From concept to all the sensor integration efforts required to get this platform deployed, the team demonstrated superb focus to get this quick reaction, airborne ISR capability fielded to support [Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom]."
The entire operational fleet of 30 aircraft was deployed in only 13 months.