Why Is the U.S. Air Force Hiring Jet-Flying Mercenaries? (excerpt)
(Source: The National Interest; posted Jan 20, 2016)
The U.S. Air Force’s elite Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, has started using contractors flying privately-owned combat aircraft to help train the service’s tactical gurus. The contractors have been hired for what amounts to a trial run. If it goes well, there are likely to be further contracts.
The Air Force Warfare Center was forced to hire the mercenaries because budget cuts have forced the service to disband one of its two Nellis-based Aggressor Squadrons. The 65th Aggressor Squadron — which was recently inactivated — flew Boeing F-15C Eagle air superiority fighters to “replicate” advanced “Red Air” warplanes like Russian-made Su-30 Flanker. The idea of using contractors to train U.S. Air Force fighter squadrons had first been floated late in 2014 — when Air Force officials described their Red Air situation as a “mess.”
“When we closed the 65th Aggressors we recognized the need for adversaries was still as great, if not more so,” said Lt. Col. Michael Shepherd, deputy commander of the 57th Adversary Tactics Group. “So while we still have that great need to produce adversary aircraft, we simply don’t have the Air Force assets. Draken has been contracted because they can do it cheaper and because they can still represent adversary tactics.”
Because of the Air Force’s dire shortage of available training assets — both dedicated aggressors and regular squadrons tasked with the Red Air mission on an ad hoc basis — the service has hired Draken International to provide pilots and aircraft. (end of excerpt)
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Draken International Successfully Supports the USAF “Best of the Best”
(Source: Draken International; issued Jan 04, 2016)
LAKELAND, FL. --- Over the past few months, Draken International has served the United States Air Force (USAF) as their newest “Red Air” aggressor force. Draken International, the largest operator of ex-military aircraft in the world, flew more than 200 sorties in support of the USAF Weapons School and the F-35 Joint Operational Test Team.
Flying advanced Douglas A-4 Skyhawk fighter jets equipped with modern APG-66 radar, Draken is able to replicate numerous types of threat aircraft for training purposes. After a short holiday break, Draken will continue to work side-by-side with the USAF 64th Aggressor Squadron to provide support for testing, large force exercises and Weapons School operations.
“Our goal is to provide professional, safe and highly capable adversary support to the men and women serving in the United States Air Force. The service Draken provides, in conjunction with the 64th Aggressor Squadron, permits front-line USAF fighter aircraft to focus on their primary training objectives while ensuring the crucial “Red Air” mission continues to be performed. This innovative solution guarantees that the USAF Weapons School, Red Flag and other training events receive all the adversary support required while still achieving considerable cost savings,” states Col. Terry Scott, a recently retired USAF F-22 pilot that now leads USAF Flight Operations for Draken. “Our maintainers, pilots and operations professionals are extremely proud to provide this valuable service to the USAF. It has also been a privilege to integrate with the 64th Aggressor Squadron to serve this role.”
The demand for adversary air support continues to grow as the global fiscal environment has resulted in significantly constrained defense budgets. In addition, militaries around the world are replacing their older generation of combat aircraft with a lower quantity of more advanced but costly fighter jets. The premise being that newer generation aircraft, such as the F-35, Eurofighter and Rafael, are able to prevail when outnumbered by less capable adversaries. The operational cost of these modern fighter jets as well as the training requirement demands, all reinforce the importance of Draken’s unique service.
Lt. Col. Michael Shepherd, 57th ATG Deputy Commander, explains, “We recognize that there is a great need for adversary aircraft, but we simply don’t have the Air Force assets to serve this role. Draken has been contracted because they can do the job at a lower cost than we can while still representing highly capable adversary tactics.”
As the leading provider of tactical flight services, Draken continues to invest in modernization to meet the ongoing demand for contract air services. Jared Isaacman, CEO of Draken International, comments, “We understand the need for constant growth and innovation in this industry, and plan on some exciting additions to our fleet and capabilities in the coming year. Our company only exists if we are able to professionally play the role of a highly capable adversary while still achieving significant cost savings to the United States Air Force. As our potential real-world adversaries evolve in their technology, so will Draken.”
Based in Lakeland, Florida, Draken International has set a new standard in tactical flight support. With a fleet of over 70 fighter aircraft, the company operates the largest privately-owned fleet of ex-military aircraft in the world. The aircraft are used to support various types of military training objectives around the globe, providing a tremendous cost savings over the use of traditional military fighter assets.