USAF confirms Project Liberty plans to deploy ISR aircraft
By Caitlin Harrington
The US Air Force publicly confirmed on 23 January that it has launched a crash effort to deploy 37 manned aircraft to Iraq and Afghanistan from April to aid high-value targeting and other tactical intelligence missions.
Project Liberty, which will cost about USD950 million, involves the procurement of 37 sensor-equipped Hawker Beechcraft C-12 aircraft under the designation MC-12W and the deployment of 100 military personnel to intelligence fusion centres on the battlefield that will analyse data collected by the aircraft.
Brigadier General Blair Hansen, director of the USAF's ISR capabilities, said that Project Liberty was launched in April 2008 after the Department of Defense's ISR Task Force, established by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, gave the green light to proceed.
Funding has already been approved for the first 31 MC-12W aircraft and money for the last seven aircraft is expected to be approved in a Fiscal Year 2009 (FY09) supplemental spending measure.
The main focus of Project Liberty is tactical intelligence collection. The most important job of the sensors on the MC-12W will be to facilitate accurate weapon targeting - especially for high-value targets - during ongoing operations. Identifying improvised explosive devices, which are on the rise in Afghanistan, will also be a mission.
"We always need to know about the environment, especially in the counterinsurgency fight," said Gen Blair.
"We see the imperative to make sure there is nothing that gets in the way when we do one mission." 240 of 935 words
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