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Draken spreads its wings

Photo: Draken L-159s supporting the FWIT course in the Netherlands. Photo Frank Crebas


Contractor Air Support provider Draken International, has deployed 11 Aero Vodochody L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft (ALCA) to Nellis AFB, Nevada, to provide adversary support to the company’s USAF Adversary Air (ADAIR) contract. Upon arrival at Nellis, the L-159 aircraft took to the skies after receiving a Military Flight Release (MFR) authorizing the integration of the L-159 with USAF assets. The L-159’s join 13 A-4 Skyhawks that Draken is already operating in support of this contract, for a total of 24 Draken aircraft now based at Nellis.

Draken first debuted the company’s L-159 in January 2017 providing Red Air support for the US Marine Corps in support of Operation ‘Agile Lightning’. USAF training with the L-159s began in late April with adversary missions supporting the 16th Weapons Squadron (F-16/F-35), 17th Weapons Squadron (F-15E), and the 433rd Weapons Squadron (F-15C/F-22), 57th Wing, Nellis AFB, Nevada.

Sean Gustafson, Vice President of Business Development stated, ‘The aircraft has exceeded all expectations with exceptional reliability and remarkable radar performance.’ Draken is the only contract air service company operating fighters with modern fire-control radars. The L-159, affectionately named the ‘Honey Badger’ by Draken, is equipped with the FIAR Grifo radar.

Draken’s commercial adversary support for the USAF at Nellis since December of 2015 has seen it flying over 2,600+ sorties and 4,000+ flight hours in this time. Draken will grow its L-159 fleet to 21 aircraft by the end of 2017. Draken’s says its services deliver dramatic cost savings over the use of military assets, and have saved the USAF over $150 million to date.

In addition to this increased presence at Nellis, Draken has also supported the Fighter Weapons Instructor Training (FWIT) program hosted by the 322 Squadron of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The Draken L-159s departed Nevada on June 19 and began the three-day Transatlantic journey after providing support for the USAF Weapons Instructor Course graduation exercise the week prior. Following the establishment of a cooperative partnership with Skyline Aviation, the Draken team began a four-week deployment at Leeuwarden Air Base, with four L-159s providing adversary support to European Participating Air Forces (EPAF) F-16 pilots enrolled in the FWIT program. The primary mission of FWIT is to develop qualified four-ship EPAF (i.e. The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, and Portugal) flight leads into Weapons Officers. Draken L-159s continue to support FWIT missions throughout July.

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