MC-12 Liberty Reaches 1000th Combat Mission
Only five months after arriving in-theater, the 362nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron recently reached 1,000 combat sorties in the MC-12W Liberty Project Aircraft.
Currently operating only at JBB, the MC-12 is one of the Air Force's newest platforms for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. But it's not just an eye in the sky -- it also serves as a complete collection, processing, analysis and dissemination system.
With manpower for 24-hour operations, the system consists of a modified aircraft with sensors, a ground exploitation cell, line-of-sight and satellite communication datalinks, and a robust voice communications suite.
"We can have a ground unit talk directly to a sensor operator who's on board," said Senior Airman Robert Laxton, 362nd ERS cryptologic operator.
"From that sensor operator, we have imagery analysts on the ground who can send out products almost instantaneously -- within five or 10 minutes -- to ground users and ground supporters."
Providing real-time, full-motion video, the Liberty is designed to augment other downrange intelligence-collecting capabilities and help military leaders make battlefield decisions. The aircraft submits the video to relay nodes distributed throughout the country. Those nodes then push the video to forward-deployed ground forces.
Since they started flying in-theater, the 362nd ERS combat sorties have aided in the capture of 12 high-value individuals and helped discover three weapons caches. And for the entire cumulative time MC-12s have provided overwatch, friendly ground forces suffered zero casualties.
The success of the MC-12 mission leads its operators to believe it could soon be employed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"I project we'll go over to [Afghanistan], too, and do the same stuff over there," said 1st Lt. Mark Finnegan, MC-12 pilot and part of the four-person aircrew. "We would continue helping to gather intelligence and protecting the troops."
by Senior Airman Andria Allmond - 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing
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