Air Transportation: King Air Keeps Coming


May 29, 2010: The U.S. Navy has received the first of six UC-12W transports it ordered. These will be used by the marines for moving cargo around. This is a militarized version of the civilian Beechcraft 350 King Air, and replaces twelve older UC-12s (that were based on the slightly smaller King Air 200). The King Air 350 is a 5.6 ton, twin engine aircraft that can carry two tons of cargo or passengers. The W model also has better electronics and is easier and cheaper to maintain.

The U.S. Air Force has its own version of the King Air, called the MC-12. This aircraft is a "manned UAV replacement". After being tried out in Iraq last year, most of the 37 in service, or on order, are headed for Afghanistan. The MC-12 will provide the same service as a UAV (full motion video) in addition to electronic monitoring (radio, cell phone, etc.). The air force is converting some existing King Air 350s, as well as buying new ones, to obtain up to fifty MC-12s for duty as, in effect, a Predator UAV replacement. This will be a big help, because UAVs cannot be manufactured fast enough to supply battlefield needs, so the manned MC-12s helps fill the gap.

The MC-12 can stay in the air for up to eight hours per sortie. Not quite what the Predator can do (about twice the time per sortie), but good enough to help fill the demand. The MC-12 has advantages over UAVs. It can carry over a ton of sensors, several times what a Predator can haul. The MC-12 can fly higher (35,000 feet) and is faster (over 500 kilometers an hour, versus 215 for the Predator.) The MC-12s cost about $20 million each, more than twice what a Predator goes for. The MC-12s crew consists of two pilots and two equipment operators.





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