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The Air Force's fleet of MC-12W information-gathering airplanes recently flew its 300,000th combat flying hour, according to officials at Beale AFB, Calif., the fleet's stateside home. The milestone occurred during a sortie over Afghanistan, states Beale's Oct. 8 release. The first MC-12 combat sortie took place in Iraq in June 2009, so it took only some four years for the fleet to reach this mark. "There is insatiable demand for this aircraft," said Col. Phil Stewart, Beale's 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander. The twin-engine MC-12s carry cameras and electronic eavesdropping equipment that gather intelligence for ground troops. "This aircraft is vital to mission success; it's essentially the eyes and ears of our ground forces," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Allison, 489th Reconnaissance Squadron commander. However popular, the Air Force may have to divest the MC-12 fleet due to budget constraints. (Beale report by SSgt. Robert M. Trujillo) (See also MC-12 Unit Reaches 100,000 Flight Hours.)