US Air Force operations with the MC-12W Liberty intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft have come to an end. The final flight by an Air Combat Command MC-12W took place at Beale Air Force Base, California, on September 16.
The aircraft making the last sortie was serial number 09-0644, flown by personnel from the 427th Reconnaissance Squadron and 306th Intelligence Squadron. Although this was the last Air Combat Command flight, USAF airmen are continuing to support MC-12W operations in theatre, but these are now being undertaken by the US Army, to which the aircraft are being transferred. Within a few weeks, the final USAF personnel will also withdraw and leave operations entirely in the hands of the Army.
The MC-12W is a medium- to low-altitude, Beech 350 King Air twin-engine turboprop aircraft, modified for the ISR role. It is capable of full motion video, communications intelligence and signals intelligence missions which directly support ground forces. The type has flown more than 400,000 combat hours and participated in more than 79,000 combat sorties since flying its first combat mission June 10, 2009. Beale had been home to the type since June 6, 2011. The aircraft was operated under the control of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing’s 9th Operations Group.
MC-12s have enabled ground forces to target high-value individuals and terrorist networks, provided situational awareness during troops-in-contact battles, and helped divert convoys around improvised explosive devices. These missions will continue with the US Army. Alan Warnes