Since the arrival of the first platform in June, the Air Force now operates six MC-12W manned intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance aircraft from Iraq and has flown a total of 302 combat missions with them, according to the service and industry. And they are already having an impact, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday. “Platforms like the MC-12,” he told workers at L-3 Communications’ aircraft facility in Greenville, Tex., “give our troops an eye in the sky. They help us disrupt and hunt down our enemies, often before they strike, saving the lives of American troops while sparing innocent civilians.” L-3 modifies Beechcraft’s King Air 350 airplane to the MC-12W configuration in Greenville. These aircraft stream full-motion video to ground troops and collect valuable signals intelligence. Another 24 MC-12Ws are slated to go to Afghanistan starting later this year. (AFPS report by Donna Miles) (For more, read Tuesday’s (Greenville) Herald-Banner report.)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.