Col. David Piffarerio, Maj. Jonathan Gration, Maj. Ryan Pelkola, and Maj. Chad Newkirk made history last week as they flew “the most experienced four-ship flight in the history of the F-22, according to a May 6 release. The pilots, who were assigned to the 477th Fighter Group, Alaska’s only Air Force Reserve unit, had a combined total of 4,000 flight hours. They took off in a “blue air” versus “red air” training exercise during Unit Training Assembly at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, on May 3. “It [is] a significant event for the maturation of the F-22 program, but also for the 477th Fighter Group,” said Piffarerio, 477th FG deputy group commander. “Despite being at a base where the weather conditions can be harsh and create maintenance challenges, the F-22s at JBER have one of the best sortie generation rates in the combat Air Force,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Heick, 477th Fighter Group deputy commander for maintenance. “The Raptor plays a crucial role in our national interests.
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.