Military Aviation

ATAC TO UPGRADE ITS “NEW” MIRAGE F1 FIGHTERS WITH AESA RADARS

ATAC CEO Jeffrey Parker said that Mirage F1 fighters, the company is still sourcing for additional aircraft in order to meet USAF requirements

As we have already reported Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) had bought 63 ex-French Mirage F1 fighters for 21 million euros.

Now ATAC CEO Jeffrey Parker said to Flight Global that the aircraft will be upgraded to compete in the upcoming U.S. Air Force (USAF) adversary air (ADAIR) competition, which requires almost 150 aircraft to fulfil the service’s red air training needs.

ATAC took ownership of the legacy Mirage F1 fleet, plus support equipment and 150 engines, on Sep. 5, 2017.

According to Parker the jets will be retrofitted with Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) jammers and active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars.

“The requirements the air force is coming out with are clearly an AESA-driven requirement,” he said.

Moreover Perker added that the company is still sourcing for additional aircraft in order to meet USAF requirements.

He explained the ATAC’s options have started waning since the firm is looking for combat planes that can operate for more than a decade or have parts that can be supported at the manufacturing level. The field is also narrowing in Europe, and the company has effectively stopped buying from former Eastern Bloc countries for the time being.

“There are aircraft from eastern Europe that our warfighters would train against, but they do not have a good track record for supportability, documentation and airworthiness certification, which has become important for industry now,” he says to Flight Global. “When you start checking off the things that make aircraft attractive, they start falling away, for those reasons, for politics, and for State Department issues where you cannot buy aircraft from different countries.”

Noteworthy the ADAIR award (which is worth $15 billion) not only will contract out nearly 37,000 flight hours to provide adversary air services filling the gaps at the USAF’s 57th Wing weapons school and Red Flag training events, but will also provide operational test and evaluation missions at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada. The USAF expects to release a final solicitation in January 2018, with a contract award due the following year.

Following the closure of the 65th Aggressor Squadron at Nellis AFB and deactivation of the base’s 19 adversary F-15s in 2015, the USAF issued a year-long contract to Draken International to supply red air assets in order to satisfy its training needs.

“In a perfect world we would have the resources to maintain the aggressor squadrons that we used to have, and we’d do our best to work in house,” Air Combat Command chief Gen Mike Holmes said during the annual Air, Space and Cyber conference near Washington DC. However. “In the world we’re living in now, I don’t want to have to trade an actual fighter squadron for an aggressor squadron because of limits on my budget. The next best thing is to see if we can contract some of that red air out.”

However Holmes also remarked that the USAF plans to return to an organic capability and that contracting out adversary air missions is only a temporary measure.

Photo credit: Photo credit: Tim Felce (Airwolfhound) and Adrian Pingstone (Arpingstone) (Own work) via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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