MC-12 aircraft is a manned, special-mission turboprop aircraft Designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance weapons capabilities
An MC-12 Liberty prepares for take-off at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, March 11, 2010. Several months ago the MC-12 flew its first combat mission from JBB. Recently the program, assigned to the 362nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, completed its 2,000th combat sortie. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Bateman/Released)
Capt. Ryan Woodman, a pilot with the 362nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, visually inspects an MC-12 Liberty prior to flight at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, March 11, 2010. The MC-12 is a tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft that allows its crew to support ground troops. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Bateman/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 Renni Thornton
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
4/6/2010 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- The 451st Air Expeditionary Wing welcomed one of the newest members of the Air Force's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance weapons systems to Kandahar Airfield March 29.
The MC-12 Liberty aircraft is a manned special-mission turboprop aircraft designed for ISR and brings a different capability to the fight, said Lt. Col. Darren Halford, 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron commander. The aircraft flew its first combat sortie here April 1.
The MC-12 Liberty provides real-time tactical ISR, with analysts and aircrew deployed together for seamless operations and maximum interaction with joint ground forces.
More aircraft and crews are expected to join this one in the future, said Colonel Halford. In addition to the impressive capabilities of the MC-12, this second squadron in Afghanistan will provide tremendous capacity.
"The MC-12 provides unparalleled capability to exploit the high ground, and give ground forces vital information about enemy locations and actions," said Colonel Halford. "The MC-12 will protect U.S. and coalition lives, and will be a vital tool helping Afghanistan defeat the insurgency."
The aircraft is manufactured by Beechcraft in Wichita, Kan.
The crew consists of a pilot, a co-pilot, a sensor operator and a cryptologic operator, while imagery analysts in the ISR exploitation cell act as a fifth crewmember, exploiting information and liaising with ground forces.
Pilots are trained on the aircraft by the 186th Mississippi Air National Guard, based in Meridian, Miss.
In less than two years, three squadrons have stood up as solely expeditionary units with no permanent home station.
It was concept to combat in 10 months and within a year and a half the Air Force has fielded three expeditionary squadrons-- a remarkable feat, said Colonel Halford.
The Air Force recently nominated the MC-12W Project Liberty team for the Collier Trophy, considered the Academy awards of aviation. Project Liberty accomplishments included "setting new acquisitions, training and deployment benchmarks to provide a full combat aircraft squadron to the Iraqi war zone in less than 10 months-the fastest delivery of a Air Force weapons system from concept to combat since the P-51 Mustang in World War II and continuing to display unsurpassed safety, innovation and combat effectiveness in America's newest weapon system."
The newest MC-12s have extended-range fuel tanks, which can increase range and endurance.
"The 361st ERS is building on the lessons learned, successes and proud tradition's already established at the 362nd and 4th," said Colonel Halford.
The 362nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron at Balad surpassed 2,000 sorties in early March and the second MC-12 unit to stand up, the 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, surpassed 300 sorties in its first three months.