Air Force Special Operations Command is now the service’s “go-to force” for the manned, tactical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission, said Deputy Chief of Staff for ISR Lt. Gen. Bob Otto. With Air Combat Command’s divestiture of the MC-12W Liberty, “I don’t see it as part of the Air Force apart from AFSOC,” Otto said in a brief at ASC15 on Monday. “We have a lot of tactical ISR in AFSOC including the U-28s” as well as the 13 special operations-tasked MC-12s which are transferring to the Oklahoma Air National Guard. The Air Force originally planned to retain the MC-12s for only a short time to fill urgent mission requirements in Afghanistan and Iraq. The aircraft proved so useful in combat that the Air Force decided to normalize the MC-12 as a permanent fleet “and then immediately we got hit with sequestration,” said Otto. “It was just one of the things we weren’t able to hold onto,” he added. At peak strength, Air Combat Command operated a total of 41 MC-12s.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.