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MC-12 Project Liberty Team competes for aviation's "Greatest Achievement"

An MC-12 Liberty flies over mountains on a reconnaissance mission. Capt. Robert Madson, 351st Air Refueling Squadron pilot, spent seven months on a deployment, as part of the 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, flying an MC-12 Liberty. Madson supported many Soldiers and special forces Service members, and joint terminal attack controllers, that were his link to the ground forces. (Courtesy photo)

An MC-12 Liberty flies over mountains on a reconnaissance mission. Capt. Robert Madson, 351st Air Refueling Squadron pilot, spent seven months on a deployment, as part of the 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, flying an MC-12 Liberty. Madson supported many Soldiers and special forces Service members, and joint terminal attack controllers, that were his link to the ground forces. (Courtesy photo)

MC-12 Liberty crew members and leadership from the 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron pause for a photo in front of one of their aircraft at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, September 11, 2012. The conclusion of this mission marks a milestone, as it signifies the 4 ERS officially exceeding over 100,000 flying hours using the MC-12s since the unit was stood up in Dec. 2009. 100,000 flying hours roughly equates to 11 and a-half years of flying for one the aircraft. 4 ERS leadership can say they accomplished this feat in under three years using its fleet of MC-12s. The flag in the photo was flown on the first 4 ERS combat mission at Bagram. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Marlene Solano)

MC-12 Liberty crew members and leadership from the 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron pause for a photo in front of one of their aircraft at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, September 11, 2012. The conclusion of this mission marks a milestone, as it signifies the 4 ERS officially exceeding over 100,000 flying hours using the MC-12s since the unit was stood up in Dec. 2009. 100,000 flying hours roughly equates to 11 and a-half years of flying for one the aircraft. 4 ERS leadership can say they accomplished this feat in under three years using its fleet of MC-12s. The flag in the photo was flown on the first 4 ERS combat mission at Bagram. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Marlene Solano)

(Air Force graphic by Airman 1st Class Drew Buchanan)

(Air Force graphic by Airman 1st Class Drew Buchanan)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Baseball has the World Series, Hollywood has the Oscars, the aviation and aerospace industry has the Collier Trophy.

The Air Force's MC-12 Project Liberty has earned a nomination for aviation's most prestigious award. The Robert J. Collier Trophy is awarded annually, "...for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency and safety of air or space vehicles."

Established in 1911, the Collier Trophy was first granted in 1929 as a national award honoring those who had made significant achievements in the advancement of aviation. Past recipients include Orville Wright, Chuck Yeager, the crew of Apollo 11 and the International Space Station.

The Air Force continues the tradition of aviation achievement with the MC-12 Liberty. In response to urgent requests from ground combat commanders in Afghanistan for tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, the U.S. Air Force teamed with L-3 Communications and Hawker Beechcraft to field the MC-12. The result was the fastest military acquisition since the P-51 Mustang in World War II.

In 2012, the MC-12 was directly responsible for the kill or capture of 710 high value individuals, including senior Taliban leaders, bomb makers and field commanders for the Afghan insurgency. Project Liberty has also removed more than 3,000 anti-Afghan forces from the battlefield.

"The MC-12 is saving America's sons and daughters in combat, enabling a timely withdrawal of our troops, and ultimately protecting America from the threats of terrorism," said Col. Phil Stewart, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander, home of the Air Force's MC-12 fleet. "This program goes beyond Afghanistan. It raises our sights and proves the Department of Defense and industry can accomplish extraordinary achievements together."

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