MC-12W airframe now boasts 'Buddy Lase' capability

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
Beale Airmen are training to operate a new system which gives the MC-12W Liberty, an unarmed reconnaissance aircraft, the ability to guide a bomb during the last part of its trajectory into a target using laser sensors.

Multiple airframes, as well as Joint Terminal Air Controllers and other ground units already have the capability to target bombs with lasers, but this is a new addition to the MC-12W's expansive intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

"The new capability is extremely valuable," said Maj. Tanner, 489th Reconnaissance Squadron pilot. "This specific capability has been requested by ground force commanders and close air support aircraft downrange."

Tanner and others from the 489th RS and 427th RS are currently deployed to train Liberty aircrews. Once the crews have been certified, the Buddy Lase capability will become operational. It works across services, meaning the Liberty can guide bombs deployed by the U.S. Army and Navy.

The Buddy Lase instructors conducted the majority of their training at Mountain Home Air force Base, Idaho, with the 391st Fighter Squadron and the Idaho Air National Guard's 190th Fighter Squadron.

"We have forged a great relationship with the 391st Fighter Squadron from Mountain Home (Air Force Base, Idaho) and the 190th Fighter Squadron of the Idaho Air National Guard," said Col. Robert Haines, 9th Operations Group commander. "These two squadrons have supported most of our training sorties and have provided valuable feedback to our initial instructors."

According to Haines, the Liberty, has flown more ISR sorties during Operation Enduring Freedom than any other aircraft.

The 391st FS operates F-15E Strike Eagles, and the 190th FS operates A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft. Buddy Lase enables a shortened and more precise ordnance delivery from fighters like these. The Liberty's new capability gives the Air Force another accuracy-ensuring tool when dropping bombs, say operators.

"Previously, (MC-12W) Liberty aircrews would determine the target through use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and then pass the information to a joint terminal attack controller for coordination with a strike aircraft," Tanner said. "Buddy Lase allows the MC-12W to provide terminal guidance for laser-guided munitions. This increases the opportunities and timeliness of kinetic support available to the ground force commander."

Buddy Lase will provide valuable assistance during life-or-death situations on the ground. MC-12W aircraft fly directly over the battlefield, enabling aircrews to witness the events with heightened situational awareness.

"The MC-12W has been a valuable asset during our most recent conflicts," said Maj. Michael, 489th RS pilot. "Laser targeting is just one more tool we can use to keep the warriors on the ground safe and to neutralize targets."

"Warfighters have requested this capability to help ensure precise targeting," Haines said. "If the MC-12W is on station prior to kinetic strike platforms, the MC-12W aircrew to develop high situational awareness on both enemy and friendly positions."

According to Master Sgt. Thomas, 427th RS, the MC-12W has proven itself time and again to be a priceless asset downrange by finding and fixing high value targets and providing timely overhead support to friendly forces in harm's way. Using the MC-12W in a Buddy Lase capacity gives additional kinetic options to the warfighter and ensures a greater chance of success during kinetic strikes.

"Buddy Lase is a Tactics Improvement Proposal (TIP) success," Haines said. "The warfighter had a need, and we believed we could provide a capability to fulfill that need. We tested the capability, developed the tactics and syllabus, and are now ready to execute."

[Editor's Note: Last names of some ISR personnel were removed for operational security reasons.]