The US military has vacated Forward Operating Location Manta at Eloy Alfaro AFB, Ecuador, and formally returned the installation to the control of the Ecuadoran military. According to press reports, the handover occurred on Sept. 18. The end of the US presence there marked the expiration of a 10-year lease agreement between the US and Ecuador that the latter chose not to renew. The US used FOL Manta as a hub for unarmed counternarcotics surveillance missions in the eastern Pacific. To compensate for its loss, the US reached an agreement with Colombia in August under which the US gains access rights to seven Colombian military bases, from which to mount counternarcotics and counterterrorist activities in the region. (See Associated Press’ Sept. 18 report and AFNS’s Sept. 23 report at Media-Newswire.com.)
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.