Liberty Enters the Fight

The MC-12W, the Air Force’s newest intelligence-reconnaissance-surveillance platform, flew its first combat sortie yesterday, a four-hour mission from Joint Base Balad, Iraq, over the Middle Eastern nation. “It feels good being out here and doing something good for the warfighter,” said Capt. Jason Goodale, the pilot, after the historic mission. Manned by a four-person crew, the MC-12W is a turboprop aircraft equipped to collect signals intelligence and provide overhead live-streaming video in support of ground troops at the tactical level. The Air Force is acquiring 37 of these “Liberty Project Aircraft,” under an accelerated acquisition initiative, to bolster overhead ISR in Afghanistan and Iraq. Seven will be trainers and the rest will constitute two operational units. The aircraft arrived at Balad June 8 in fully-mission-ready status. It is assigned to Balad’s 362nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, which activated on June 9. “This is the first combat mission for the 362nd ERS, and it was a huge success,” said Col. Mike Fantini, 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group commander. He added, “The milestone continues the extraordinary program to push more ISR capability to the joint-force commander.” (Includes Balad reports by SSgt. Dilia Ayala on the MC-12W’s arrival and inaugural combat mission)