The Air Force has upped the bomber deployments to the US Central Command area of operations to six-month tours, Gen. Michael Moseley told Pentagon reporters yesterday. The new timeframe works better for bombers than the 120-day rotations being used for other flying units, because too much fuel and parts were being burned up in the back-and-forth transit to the States. To provide more rapid—and economical—airlift response, USAF assigned a unit of C-130 cargo aircraft to Balad AB, Iraq, early in 2006 and last fall stationed its new C-17 in theater as well. Moseley says the increasing inventory of the new airlifters has enabled USAF to station 20 in Iraq now. For fighters, however, rotations in and out of Southwest Asia of between 90 and 120 days continues to be “the ‘sweet spot,’” Moseley said, because longer than that requires a substantially larger forward footprint of parts and maintainers.
The Pentagon awarded a contract worth over $2 billion for the next batch of F-35 engines to Pratt & Whitney on June 5. The deal for Lot 17 F135 engines, totaling $2.02 billion, is expected to be completed by December 2025.