Beale MC-12W Liberty aircraft surpassed 300,000 combat flying hours at a forward operating base in Afghanistan in September.
The aircraft was developed in response to urgent requests from ground combat commanders for tactical ISR. The result was the fastest military acquisition since the P-51 Mustang in World War II.
The milestone translates to approximately 34 years of flying that the Liberty team achieved in less than four. Project Liberty was also credited with flying 73 percent of all Air Force Intelligence Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) sorties and 24 percent of all Air Force combat sorties in Afghanistan for 2012.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Allison, 489th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, attributes the success of this milestone due in large part to the aircraft’s active role in close-air support and ISR operations.
“This aircraft is vital to mission success; it’s essentially the eyes and ears of our ground forces,” said Allison. “300,000 combat hours makes quite a statement.”
The MC-12W is a medium altitude, twin-engine, turboprop aircraft loaded with state-of-the-art optical and sensor equipment. The aircraft’s primary mission is to provide ISR support directly to ground forces.
Liberty crews consist of two pilots, a sensor operator and a tactical systems operator who build the tactical picture and shape combat operations.
In 2012 , the MC-12 flew more than 20,016 combat sorties and was directly responsible for the kill or capture of 710 high-value individuals, including senior Taliban leaders, bomb makers and field commanders for the Afghan insurgency. This effort also led to more than 3,000 anti-Afghan forces removed from the battlefield.
“There is insatiable demand for this aircraft. In the spirit of the P-51 Mustang, Project Liberty proves that rapid acquisition, DOD, and industry can accomplish the extraordinary,” said Col. Phil Stewart, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander. Beale Air Force Base is home to the Air Force’s MC-12 fleet.
The aircraft was also nominated for aviation’s highest award, the Collier Trophy, three of the past four years. The trophy is awarded annually, “…for the greatest achievements in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency and safety of air or space vehicles.”
“The MC-12 is saving America’s sons and daughters in combat and ultimately protecting America from the threats of terrorism,” Stewart said. “Not enough great things can be said about this aircraft; it truly is remarkable.”