Air Force F-16s and A-10s flew close air support to cover the rescue of an Army aircrew after its AH-64 Apache attack helicopter crashed in northern Afghanistan. The downed crew’s wingmen relayed a distress call through a nearby KC-135 tanker to an E-3 AWACS that broke off to assist in coordinating the recovery. “We knew the guys on the ground were going to need armed overwatch, so we called in the F-16s,” said Maj. Paul Lankes, AWACS mission crew boss during the Dec. 30 mission. Low on fuel, the Vipers rendezvoused with the KC-135 and then guarded the crew until relieved on station by a pair of A-10s that, in turn, kept watch until a rescue convoy arrived to extract the two-man Apache crew. “That kind of orchestration is what we do,” summed Capt. Joel Doss, AWACS electronic combat officer. (380th AEW report by SSgt. J.G. Buzanowski)
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.