Airmen and C-130Js from the 317th Airlift Group at Dyess AFB, Texas, flew to Pope Army Airfield, N.C., earlier this month to participate in the Combined Joint Operational Access Exercise (CJOAX) 15-01, where they trained with the US and British Army as well as Royal Air Force units in joint forcible entry and large formation airdrop operations. Other USAF C-130s and C-17s also participated, training in small formations and on mission planning with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, the British Army’s 16th Air Assault Brigade, and the RAF’s 47th Squadron during the initial days of the exercise. The CJOAX culminated in a 23-ship airlift formation, which dropped some 2,100 paratroopers and hundreds of tons of equipment into a drop zone at Fort Bragg, N.C., simulating a joint forcible entry. Before returning to Dyess, the C-130Js flew to Louisiana to pick up 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division soldiers to airdrop them as part of a Global Response Force Exercise, a short notice mass deployment for combat or humanitarian support operations. Joint operational access exercises take place several times a year to certify the Air Force and Army’s ability to deploy strategic airlift, contingency troops, and support personnel in large formations.
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.