ATAC moves ahead with Mirage aggressors

Photo: Michael Keaveney

Textron Airborne Solution’s Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) has started high-speed taxi tests of its new Dassault Mirage F1s at its base at Alliance Airport, Texas. It initially tested Mirage F1CR registration N618AX (ex-French Air Force serial 229).  On July 22, its two-seat Mirage F1B registration N601AX also joined testing (ex-French serial 502).

The former-French Mirages arrived at ATAC’s Adversary Center of Excellence (ATAC-ACE) on June 27, 2017. The company acquired 63 F1s from France, along with support equipment and 150 engines, in September 2017.

The contractor, which is part of Textron Airborne Solutions, announced plans for the new ACE facility in February. Located at Fort Worth Alliance Airport, the ACE will perform maintenance, repair and overhaul work on around 80 jets operated by the company. Its fleet currently includes subsonic L-39ZA and Hunter Mk58 jets as well as supersonic Kfir-C2 fighters that support a variety of US and foreign military training requirements.

The US Air Force is radically changing the way it trains its fighter pilots. It issued a long-awaited Request for Proposals (RFP) for contractor-operated adversary aircraft (ADAIR) for training its combat forces on August 24, 2017. The US Air Force has gone from zero contractor support in this area to a multi-layered, pan-service requirement. The Combat Air Forces Contracted Air Support project includes both ADAIR and Contracted Close Air Support (CCAS) to train ground troops. The effort will provide the USAF with as many as 30,000 adversary sorties annually from bases in the continental US, Alaska and Hawaii. Additionally, the CCAS mission will provide 10,000 sorties annually in support of Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) training.

Contractors will be permitted to provide support with several aircraft types including third- and fourth-generation fighters and requirements include operations at speeds of up to mach 1.5 and altitudes up to 50,000ft. The contracted aircraft must be compatible with captive air-to-air training missiles and electronic countermeasures pods and around half will require a radar with a range of up to 80nm (148km).

Only US-based companies are permitted to bid as prime contractors and aircraft will be flown by American civilians. The aircraft can however be sourced from Western nations or from ‘threat countries’.

In July 2016, the USAF issued a request for information for the ADAIR capability — reaching out to the various contractor air service companies to support this massive emerging training need. The solicitation to industry was for nearly 42,000 hours of contracted aggressor support training at 12 different bases. As well as at Nellis AFB — which is now contracted under ADAIR II — this was for Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina; JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; Holloman AFB, New Mexico; Eglin AFB, Florida; JB Langley-Eustis, Virginia; Tyndall AFB, Florida; Kingsley Field, Oregon; Luke AFB, Arizona; Hill AFB, Utah and Tucson Airport, Arizona.

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