F-15Cs of the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron have begun NATO air sovereignty alerts over Iceland after deploying recently from RAF Lakenheath, Britain, to Keflavik International Airport. “In this NATO mission, we identify and escort unauthorized aircraft before they reach Iceland’s sovereign airspace,” said Lt. Col. Michael Casey, 493rd EFS commander, in a May 22 release. “We practice scramble launches and when we receive an alert, the F-15s can be in the air within 15 minutes,” he added. Air Force Eagles provided continuous quick-reaction alert under a bilateral agreement with Iceland until 2006. At the Icelandic government’s request, NATO fighters now intermittently rotate for several weeks at a time to defend Iceland’s skies. Along with the fighters, KC-135s from RAF Mildenhall, Britain, and C-130Js from Ramstein AB, Germany, deployed to provide aerial refueling and rescue support. German air force F-4s completed a stint last month. The 493rd EFS will depart Iceland on June 7, according to Lakenheath officials. (Keflavik report by 2nd Lt. Lyndsey Horn) (NATO release)
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.