Airmen with the Ohio Air National Guard’s 178th Fighter Wing in Springfield are upgrading the radios in 160 Air Guard F-16 Block 30 airplanes so that the pilots of these Vipers will have the connectivity to communicate beyond line of sight. That’ll be a key capability in places like Afghanistan where mountainous terrain can make communication difficult if limited to line-of-sight transmissions. The BLOS upgrade will enable troops on the ground to “call the airplane directly” and “get real-time help” from the F-16s, said SMSgt. Phil Bennett, the project manager. The wing’s goal is to complete upgrades to 90 F-16s by the end of the fiscal year. Springfield lost its F-16 training mission as part of BRAC 2005 and is transitioning to new missions that will include operating MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft in combat zones. (Springfield report by SrA. Amy Adducchio)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.