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MC-12W Liberty: One year later, one year stronger

A pilot is shadowed by the wing of an Air Force MC-12W Liberty intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft on the Beale Air Force Base flight line Oct. 9, 2012. The MC-12W is a medium altitude, twin-engine, turboprop aircraft loaded with high tech optical and sensor equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

A pilot is shadowed by the wing of an Air Force MC-12W Liberty intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft on the Beale Air Force Base flight line Oct. 9, 2012. The MC-12W is a medium altitude, twin-engine, turboprop aircraft loaded with high tech optical and sensor equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Two pilots complete a pre-flight checklist before their first flight ever in an Air Force MC-12W Liberty intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft at Beale Air Force Base Oct. 9, 2012. After training with the 489th Reconnaissance Squadron, the pilots will become part of the operations unit associated with the MC-12W, the 427th RS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Two pilots complete a pre-flight checklist before their first flight ever in an Air Force MC-12W Liberty intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft at Beale Air Force Base Oct. 9, 2012. After training with the 489th Reconnaissance Squadron, the pilots will become part of the operations unit associated with the MC-12W, the 427th RS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

A sensor operator adjusts the West Cam MX-15 camera on the bottom of the Air Force MC-12W Liberty intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft on the Beale Air Force Base flight line Oct. 9, 2012. The MC-12W???s capabilities support all aspects of the worldwide Air Force irregular warfare mission, including counter-insurgency, foreign internal defense and partnership capacity building. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

A sensor operator adjusts the Wescam MX-15 camera on the bottom of the Air Force MC-12W Liberty intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft on the Beale Air Force Base flight line Oct. 9, 2012. The MC-12W's capabilities support all aspects of the worldwide Air Force irregular warfare mission, including counter-insurgency, foreign internal defense and partnership capacity building. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

A crew chief for the Air Force MC-12W Liberty intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft cleans the West Cam MX-15 camera at Beale Air Force Base Oct. 9, 2012. The camera collects information which is sent via data link to geospatial analysts deployed on the ground or at the Distributed Ground Station at Beale. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

A crew chief for the Air Force MC-12W Liberty intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft cleans the Wescam MX-15 camera at Beale Air Force Base Oct. 9, 2012. The camera collects information which is sent via data link to geospatial analysts deployed on the ground or at the Distributed Ground Station at Beale. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Three Air Force MC-12W Liberty intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft are loaded with crew and equipment in preparation for a training flight at Beale Air Force Base Oct. 9, 2012. The aircrew consists of two pilots, a sensor operator and a tactical systems operator. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

Three Air Force MC-12W Liberty intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft are loaded with crew and equipment in preparation for a training flight at Beale Air Force Base Oct. 9, 2012. The aircrew consists of two pilots, a sensor operator and a tactical systems operator. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shawn Nickel/Released)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., -- Editor's note: This is part one of a four part series highlighting the MC-12W Liberty weapons system. It has operated at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., for more than a year, reaching several milestones which support Air Force leaders as they normalize intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations.

Imagine playing hide and seek with neighborhood children and looking around a corner knowing the "enemy" is looming close by but not knowing their exact location. Now imagine knowing where they are hiding without even looking around that corner.

This is the reality the MC-12W Liberty creates for U.S. and allied forces on the ground throughout the world. Intelligence such as where enemies are hiding, where they are firing from and even what they are saying is what Liberty aircrew provides combatant commanders and war fighters.

The MC-12W is a medium altitude, twin-engine, turboprop aircraft loaded with high tech optical and sensor equipment.

The aircrew of two pilots, a sensor operator and a tactical systems operator collect information which is sent via data link to geospatial analysts deployed on the ground or at the Distributed Ground Station here. These Airmen exploit, disseminate and transmit the information the aircraft collects.

"Whether the geospatial analysts are in a [distributed ground station] or deployed with troops on the ground, they are part of the aircrew," said Lt. Col. Harlie Bodine, 489th Reconnaissance Squadron commander. "It's critical that information superiority comes from a total picture of the battle space. Having these Airmen fusing all the assets of ISR is the only way to do this."

The aircraft's primary mission is to provide ISR support directly to ground forces. The MC-12W's capabilities support all aspects of the worldwide Air Force irregular warfare mission, including counter-insurgency, foreign internal defense and building partnership capacity.
To achieve this, the 9th Operations Group here operates two squadrons to train, employ, and deploy Airmen in support of the Liberty program.

The 489th Reconnaissance Squadron is the primary training location for pilots sensor operators and tactical systems operators while the 427th Reconnaissance Squadron deploys these Airmen. Working in conjunction with these squadrons, the 306th Intelligence Squadron from the Air Force ISR Agency provides the tactical systems operators.

After more than a year of utilizing pilots and equipment operators from different airframes, Air Force leaders have now turned their attention to normalizing MC-12W ISR operations.

"This means bringing permanent party MC-12W crews to Beale to create a pool of knowledge and expertise that can be passed along to future war fighters," Bodine said. "The new model will relieve the tax on aircrews across the Air Force."