The US Air Force’s 173rd Fighter Wing (FW) has begun training with adversary air (ADAIR) provided under contract by Draken International.
A squadron of Draken L-159Es has arrived at the 173rd FW’s Kingsley Field base in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and will remain there for six weeks. The wing is the sole formal training schoolhouse for the F-15C/D Eagle.
“You will see some distinctly different jets flying over Klamath Falls over the next few months,” explained Col Jeff Smith, the 173rd FW commander, in an official press release. “These adversary air aircraft, pilots, and maintenance personnel are contracted by the US Air Force to help us increase our training quality and student throughput.”
If successful, the Draken L-159Es may return to Kingsley Field for a longer-term contract that could begin next summer.
“It’s definitely smaller than the F-15 that you see flying around on any given day, but it will still provide a good, realistic threat replication for us, and provide good quality training,” said Capt Chris DuBois, and instructor pilot at the 173rd FW.
Normally, the 173rd FW employs its own F-15s for adversary air during training exercises. This can require up to an additional three aircraft to train a single student pilot. By bringing in contracted ADAIR, more F-15s should be available, together with instructor pilots to fly additional students.
According to Capt DuBois, most of the visiting Draken pilots have experience on the F-15, F-16 or other current front-line US types.
The Aero Vodochody L-159A Advanced Light Combat Aircraft (ALCA) is the most recent addition to the Draken fleet. Based on the popular and proven L-39 Albatros, the L-159 packs an impressive punch in a small and, importantly, affordable package. Designed at a time when Boeing owned 35% of the Czech firm, the L-159 benefits from Western digital avionics and an intuitive cockpit layout.
Most importantly, the ALCA is equipped with a Grifo-L pulse-Doppler multimode radar. Acquiring 21 L-159s increases the company’s radar-shooter capacity by 300%, which means it can provide more aircraft for ‘overwhelm’ training against fifth-generation fighters.
In addition to air-to-air capabilities, the L-159s can employ air-to-ground ordnance, making the company’s investment in the type a comprehensive upgrade in terms of not just capacity, but capability as well.
See the May 2017 issue of AFM for a full account of the work of Draken International, one of the leading names in the rise of contract Red Air support.