The Air Force’s MC-12W Liberty surveillance aircraft seems destined for the chopping block. “If funding weren’t an issue, I would love to have that capability,” Gen. Mike Hostage, head of Air Combat Command, told reporters at a press roundtable on Sept. 17 at AFA’s 2013 Air and Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. It’s “just what a small nation could use in a multitude of circumstances, from disaster relief to counterinsurgency to border patrol,” he said. Plus, it could be useful as “a platform for partnering with small allies.” However, if he has to make vertical cuts to live within the budget sequester, “I can do that capability with other systems,” said Hostage. The contractor logistics costs on the MC-12 are very high, he said, and “it just falls into that category of, ‘I’d love to have it, but there are other things I need more desperately.’”
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.