Discovery Air Defence Services (DADS) took over the provision of fast jet training services for the German armed forces this month. The Canadian company will use seven significantly upgraded A-4N Skyhawks based at Wittmund to fulfill the five-year German contract. The service was previously provided by BAE Systems, also using A-4Ns.
DADS is a wholly owned subsidiary of Discovery Air, a specialty provider that has become the second-largest air operator in Canada. It has been providing a similar service to the Canadian armed forces for the past eight years, using a fleet of Alpha Jets that have now amassed more than 47,000 hours. DADS previously traded as Top Aces, which is now the name of Discovery Air’s U.S. company that offers similar fast jet training services. In late 2013, Discovery Air bought U.S. company Advanced Training Systems International (ATSI), another provider of such services, thereby acquiring the A-4Ns that it is now deploying to Germany. It now claims to be the largest such provider in the world.
The Canadian company says that contractor-owned and -operated (CoCo) services like this can save 75 percent of the cost of flying combat jets as "Red Air" adversaries in fighter pilot training missions. Since it began flying Alpha Jets for adversary training in Canada, DADS has saved the government there more than $1.5 billion by eliminating the need to conduct the training in the air force’s CF-18 Hornet fighters, according to Gp Capt Richard Poole, director of international programs.
Speaking at The International Fighter Conference organized in London last November by IQPC, Poole said that DADS is acquiring some Lockheed Martin F-16s to provide supersonic adversary training, and showed a graph suggesting that the company could operate them at a cost of some $18,000 per flight hour. They should be available in time for the Maple Flag exercise that Canada organizes each May. Poole, a former UK Royal Air Force (RAF) fast jet pilot, said that the RAF had shown interest in using CoCo F-16s to replace some of the hours flown in training by Eurofighter Typhoon combat jets.