ATAC Lands U.S. Navy Controller Training Contract

 - May 8, 2019, 4:14 AM
Valkyrie Aero operates EO turret-equipped Tucanos that were previously flown by the air forces of France and the UK. (Photo: Valkyrie Aero)

Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) has been awarded an IDIQ (indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity) contract to provide contracted air services to the U.S. Navy’s Terminal Attack Controller Trainer (TACT) program. Headquartered in Newport News, Virginia, ATAC is a subsidiary of Textron Airborne Solutions. It is leading a team that will employ not only the company’s Aero L-39 Albatros jet trainers, but also the Embraer A-27 Tucanos of Valkyrie Aero, as well as Textron Aviation Defense’s own Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine light attack/reconnaissance aircraft.

TACT is a Navy program with greater scope for training forward air controllers (FACs), forward air controllers (Airborne), and joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs). The ATAC team will use its aircraft to replicate typical attack and close-support missions, providing ground-based FACs and JTACs with the ability to direct their operations in a range of operational scenarios.

“TACT is a marked increase in both the quality and quantity of JTAC training services demanded by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps,” said Russ Bartlett, CEO of Textron Airborne Solutions. “ATAC’s world-class team is pleased to provide the most mission-representative JTAC training solutions available.”

ATAC has been providing contracted air services to the Department of Defense for 15 years and has amassed 57,000 flying hours. The current fleet numbers more than 90 aircraft, including the L-39 Albatros, IAI Kfirs, and Hawker Hunters. In June 2017 the company acquired 63 Dassault Mirage F1 fighters from France.

The employment of the AT-6 Wolverine in the TACT program is significant. The close-support aircraft has been outfitted with a suite of modern battlefield communications systems. “The Navy and Marine Corps flew the AT-6 during the U.S. Air Force Light Attack experiments and are well acquainted with its unparalleled mission capability and optimized battlespace networking capability,” said Brett Pierson, vice president of Light Attack Aircraft and Scorpion at Textron Aviation Defense.

Headquartered at Falcon Field in Mesa, Arizona, Valkyrie Aero already provides JTAC training to U.S. and allied customers. It operates a mix of EMB-312F and EMB-312S Tucanos, the 312Fs being former French air force aircraft with Pratt & Whitney PT6A-25 engines. The EMB-312S was built by Short Brothers in Northern Ireland for the Royal Air Force and has a strengthened airframe and more powerful Honeywell TPE331-12B engine. Both versions have been outfitted with an L3 Wescam MX-15DiA electro-optic (EO) turret. Four underwing hardpoints provide for the carriage of bombs, rocket pods, and gun pods.

The ATAC contract was one of four simultaneously awarded by Naval Air Systems Command on April 30 for contracted air services. Draken International, Coastal Defense (CDI), and Tactical Air Support also received IDIQ contracts. CDI also provides JTAC/FAC(A) training, using L-39s equipped with FLIR Systems Star Safire EO turrets. The services covered by the four contracts are to be conducted mainly at NAS Fallon, Nevada, and at two Marine Corps installations—Cherry Point, North Carolina, and Twentynine Palms, California.