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Curtain Goes Up on Project Liberty 

Curtain Goes Up on Project Liberty: The Air Force plans to have the first of its newly acquired MC-12W intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance aircraft deployed to Southwest Asia by April, Brig. Gen. Blair Hansen, director of ISR capabilities on the Air Staff, told reporters in the Pentagon Friday. (Hansen's briefing slides) The concept for these manned, medium-altitude platforms—which are known as Liberty Project Aircraft—came out of the Office of the Secretary of Defense ISR task force last year as a means to quickly bolster the overhead ISR assets already in Afghanistan and Iraq and, in particular, to relieve the heavy burden being placed upon on MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles in the war theater. LPA will specifically address the warfighter’s demand for greater full-motion-video and signals intelligence coverage. Planned is a fleet of 37 aircraft. The first seven are based on the King Air 350 model, and the remaining 30 airframes on the King Air 350 Extended Range variant. All 37 aircraft are expected to be in the Air Force's hands by year's end, Hansen said. There will be two operational squadrons of 15 aircraft each and seven assets used stateside for training. The first eight LPA are used airframes undergoing modification. The remainder will be new airframes. (For more on the ISR burden, read High Stress Numbers Game)
—Marc V. Schanz 
On the Record

Realistic Realignment
"Our country has reached a critical moment in terms of redefining our military role in East Asia. This moment in history requires that we clearly articulate our operational doctrine, thus reshaping the structure of our military posture in that region, particularly in Korea, Japan, and Guam."
—Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) calling for the Defense Department to overhaul its plan to realign US military forces in East Asia in a joint statement with Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), released May 11, 2011. Among their proposals, the Senators advocate shifting some Air Force assets from Kadena AB, Japan, to Andersen AFB, Guam, or other parts of Japan.

On the Record

Balancing Act
"While we win the fight with our airmen, we help them win by putting world-class platforms and tools in their capable hands."
—Undersecretary of the Air Force Erin Conaton, Air Force Association-sponsored Air Force Breakfast Series presentation, Arlington, Va., May 11, 2011. She highlighted the need to recapitalize the Air Force's aging tanker, fighter, bomber, and missile forces, while still working to modernize the service's satellite constellations and meet new requirements in the cyber domain.

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