ARLINGTON, Va. --- The F-35 Lightning II strike fighter is easily able to counter the adversary services aircraft thrown at it in numbers, said an official of an adversary services contractor, who added that the industry is facing challenges in coming up with a realistic threat aircraft for training for high-end combat.
“Nothing gets close to these things [the F-35s]” said Jeffrey Parker, a former Air Force fighter pilot and chief executive of ATAC LLC, a Textron company that provides opposing aircraft for U.S. fighter squadrons and electronic threat simulation against Navy strike groups. “I’ve flown against the [Marine] F-35Bs down at [Marine Corps Air Station] Beaufort [S.C.] It’s an impressive airplane. Even in the hands of students, it’s a very capable fighter.”
Parker also said that increased adversary services are needed by the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to reduce the fatigue-life toll on use of the services’ own front-line fighters and their limited flight hours in the adversary role.
The Navy “has a shortage of readiness training, so they’re reaching out to industry to try to solve that problem,” Parker said. “They’re using too much ‘gray air’ [warfighting aircraft].”
He said each adversary aircraft that flies 250 hours a year is the equivalent of freeing an F/A-18 Super Hornet for fleet use for a year. Ten ATAC aircraft in use for 250 hours each can extend the lives of 10 Super Hornets per year.
The Navy has three squadrons of dedicated adversary aircraft with third-generation F-5 or fourth-generation F/A-18 fighters and the Marine Corps fields one squadron of F-5s. The Navy’s Topgun school also uses F/A-18 and F-16 adversary aircraft. The Air Force operates two adversary F-16 squadrons. Companies like ATAC use foreign-built aircraft such as the supersonic F-21 Kfir and slower Hawker Hunter to supplement with adversary services. (end of excerpt)
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