Textron Airborne Solution’s Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) marked the first flight of one of its ex-French Air Force Dassault Mirage F1s at its base at Alliance Airport, Texas, on August 22. It came a month to the day after high-speed taxi tests of the aircraft — two-seat Mirage F1B registration N601AX (ex-French serial 502). A company statement said that the flight lasted 30 minutes and was conducted as ‘an initial acceptance flight.’
The former-French Mirages arrived at ATAC’s Adversary Center of Excellence (ATAC-ACE) from June 27, 2017 as the contractor-owned/contractor-operated (COCO) adversary solutions company acquired 63 Mirage F1s from France, along with support equipment and 150 engines, in September 2017.
It was part of ATAC’s latest move to be in a position to respond to a huge USAF requirement for contracted aggressor training support under its adversary aircraft (ADAIR) requirement for training its combat forces. 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’.
ATAC: long-term training
Since 1994, ATAC, has been providing a valuable contractor air service training support for the US Navy. ATAC Kfirs and Hawker Hunters have become regular inhabitants of various navy fighter squadrons’ parking ramps as they provide a range of training services to both the Fleet and to fighter squadrons. ATAC has trained US Navy, Marine, Air Force and Army aircrews, ship crews, and combat controllers in the air-to-ship, air-to-air, and air-to-ground arenas.
ATAC’s model is one that has seen the company achieve significant success with the US Navy, supporting a minimum of 4,500 flying hours annually using its Hunters and Kfirs, with each of its pilots being either a US Navy, Marine Corps or USAF fighter pilot; most are instructors and typically they are either TOPGUN, aggressor squadron or USAF Weapons School patch-wearers.
In a statement, ATAC said that ‘it intends to return as many of the high performance tactical fighter aircraft to service as practicable.’ It added: ‘ATAC/Textron investments in standing up all necessary functions in advance of government contracts demonstrates our commitment to the mission and ensures ATAC will be ready to meet the [Department of Defense] needs from day one.’