Florida-based Draken International has deployed 11 Aero Vodochody L-159 aircraft to Nellis Air Force Base in support of a US Air Force contract. The contractor now has a total of 24 jets at the Nevada base.
The L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft (ALCA) are at Nellis to provide direct adversary support to the company’s USAF Adversary Air (ADAIR) contract.
According to a July 10 announcement from Draken, the L-159s received a Military Flight Release (MFR) before beginning integration with USAF assets. As well as the ALCAs, Draken operates 13 A-4 Skyhawks at Nellis in support of the same contract.
Draken L-159s began providing Red Air to the US Marine Corps in support of Operation Agile Lightning in January.
USAF training against 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.”
Interestingly, in the same press release, Draken also revealed that company crews call the L-159 the ‘Honey Badger’, a reference to the famously ferocious mustelid.
Draken has been the sole provider of commercial adversary support for the USAF at Nellis since December of 2015, flying over 2,600 sorties and 4,000 flight hours in this time.
“The introduction of the Honey Badger to the USAF is solving an ADAIR deficit crisis that requires immediate attention to safeguard the invaluable training of Weapons Instructors and warfighters alike,” said Draken. “To meet this growing need, Draken International will increase sortie production at Nellis to provide support for the Air Force Weapons School, Red Flag exercises, and the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron.”
According to the company, Draken’s services have saved the USAF over $150 million to date.
Draken in Europe
The company also recently supported the Fighter Weapons Instructor Training (FWIT) programme hosted by the 322 Squadron of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) at Leeuwarden. The Draken L-159s departed Nevada on June 19 and began a three-day transatlantic journey after providing extensive support for the USAF Weapons Instructor Course graduation exercise the previous week.
The L-159s are taking part in a four-week deployment at Leeuwarden providing adversary support to European Participating Air Forces (EPAF) F-16 pilots enrolled in the FWIT programme. FWIT serves to develop qualified four-ship EPAF (i.e. Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal) flight leads into Weapons Officers.
Draken L-159s will continue to support FWIT missions throughout July.
ALCAs for Draken
At Farnborough Airshow in July 2014, Aero Vodochody announced that Draken International was set to acquire 14 L-159As with options for a further 14. Nearly three years on, Draken has altered its needs to 21 jets, to be delivered in three batches of seven. By the end of the year, the Draken L-159 fleet will be at full strength, after the delivery of all 21 aircraft.
The first two batches of ALCAs provided adversary support with the US Marine Corps during Exercises Agile Lightning and Wing Fury, from January 26 to 31 this year. The jets used their Grifo radar to simulate advanced threat aircraft and missiles. Acting as aggressors, they played a full part in an anti-area/access denial scenario for the USMC, which operated F-35Bs alongside F/A-18 and AV-8B aircraft.
Further details of the Aero Vodochody L-159 ALCA appear in the the current (July) issue of AFM.