The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, intends to award a sole source contract to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. to upgrade more MQ-9 Block 1 remotely piloted aircraft to the extended range configuration, according to a presolicitation announcement posted last week. The company is the “sole designer, developer, and manufacturer” of the Reaper and “has been identified as the only firm that possesses the necessary knowledge, experience, and technical data required to perform this effort,” states the announcement. The modifications include new wings with extra fuel tanks and winglets, reported IHS Jane’s. Once awarded, the contract would be in addition to the 38 Block 1 aircraft already slated for upgrade by July 2016. Officials did not immediately respond to a request for information about how many aircraft were included in the next batch or the projected timeline for completion.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.