By SOF Editor on Wed, 12/02/2009 - 11:29am
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (AFNS) -- Members of the 362nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron here, recently reached 1,000 combat sorties in the MC-12W aircraft only five months after arriving in-theater.
Currently operating only at Joint Base Balad, the MC-12 is one of the Air Force's newest platforms for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. It's not just an eye in the sky, it also serves as a complete collection, processing, analysis and dissemination system.
The modified aircraft system consists of sensors, a ground exploitation cell, line-of-sight and satellite communication datalinks, and a robust voice communications suite, all with manpower for 24-hour operations.
"We can have a ground unit talk directly to a sensor operator who's on board," said Senior Airman Robert Laxton, a 362nd ERS cryptologic operator. "From that sensor operator, we have imagery analysts on the ground who can send out products, almost instantaneously, to ground users and ground supporters."
Providing real time, full-motion video, the Liberty is designed to augment other downrange intelligence-collecting capabilities and help military leaders make battlefield decisions. The aircraft submits the video to relay nodes distributed throughout the country. Those nodes then push the video to forward-deployed ground forces.
Since they started flying in-theater, the 362nd ERS combat sorties have aided in the capture of 12 high-value individuals and helped discover three weapons caches. And for the entire cumulative time MC-12s have provided overwatch, friendly ground forces suffered zero casualties.
The success of the MC-12 mission leads its operators to believe it could soon be employed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"I project we'll go over to (Afghanistan) too and do the same stuff over there," said 1st Lt. Mark Finnegan, a MC-12 pilot and part of the four-person aircrew. "We would continue helping to gather intelligence and protecting the troops."