Liberty Helping ISR Swing in Theater

Less than two weeks after its arrival in theater, the MC-12W Liberty is paying dividends to commanders in Iraq and across Southwest Asia, Col. Michael Fantini, commander of the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, told reporters yesterday during a teleconference. The new asset has given Air Force and joint commanders a tremendous amount of flexibility in where they can deploy in-demand intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance aircraft, he said. With its long loiter time, it can take the burden off of Balad’s heavily taxed MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle fleets, allowing Air Forces Central boss Lt. Gen. Gary North more options in moving capability back and forth between Iraq and Afghanistan, Fantini said. “It’s going to allow us to be flexible, where, as I build in some areas, I could readjust and reorient in some areas,” he explained. The first MC-12 arrived at Balad on June 8. The next day, the 362nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron was activated there. On June 10, the aircraft flew its first combat sortie. “Within 48 hours, we turned it into its first combat mission,” Fantini said. (For more on the Air Force’s ISR mission in Iraq, read The Airpower Surge from the January issue of Air Force Magazine.)