That’s how Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, USAF’s top uniformed acquisition official, describes the Air Force’s new MC-12W surveillance aircraft. Speaking Tuesday at an Air Force Association-sponsored Air Force Breakfast Series presentation in Arlington, Va., Shackelford said the MC-12 features overhead streaming video capability like on MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft, but adds the capacity for signals collection that Predator lacks. Thus the analogy. The Air Force is acquiring a fleet of 37 MC-12s, based on seven modified King Air 350 airframes and 30 King Air 350 Extended Range aircraft. According to Shackelford’s briefing slides, all seven 350-based MC-12s have been delivered (six serving in Iraq, one used for training in Meridian, Miss.) as have nine 350 ER-based units (four in the war theater, one in transit, and four at Meridian) (For more from Shackelford, read What to Expect and Too Much of a Good Thing.)
An Air Force C-17 transport jet recently tested a new technology that could help aviators stay on course even if the satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) that much of modern-day aviation relies on is compromised.