The 9th Reconnaissance Wing flew its final MC-12W Liberty sortie from Beale AFB, Calif., ending Air Combat Command’s operation of the aircraft on Sept. 16. “The MC-12 is a great story because it linked those people in the aircraft with people on the ground and it allowed them to carry out a critically important mission,” 9th RW Commander Col. Douglas Lee said in a release. Beale’s 427th Reconnaissance Squadron has flown the aircraft since June 2011, following the Air Force’s decision to normalize the MC-12 as a permanent fleet. Air Force MC-12s clocked some 400,000 combat flying hours and more than 79,000 sorties over Iraq and Afghanistan since they were first deployed in June 2009, according to officials. The Air Force is retaining 13 of the 41-strong fleet to stand up a special operations-tasked unit with the Oklahoma Air National Guard, while eight MC-12s are transferring to the Army. “Although the mission is leaving … the aircraft are going to very good homes,” said 9th Operations Group Commander Col. Darren Halford. “Our joint and Total Force partners will ensure the MC-12 continues to help find, fix, and finish the enemies of freedom.”
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.