Draken Europe has signed a teaming agreement with Czech manufacturer Aero Vodochody Aerospace to support the Royal Air Force’s new Interim Red Air Aggressor Training Service (IRAATS). The agreement also includes studying longer-term maintenance, upgrade, training, and support developments.
The company will base eight Aero L-159E “Honey Badgers” at its Teesside base (formerly RAF Middleton St George), from where they will shortly begin flying as the “enemy” in dissimilar air combat training exercises with RAF fighters, providing air-to-air, target, threat simulation, and mission augmentation functions. Teesside provides an ideal base due to the close proximity to the main air combat training areas over the North Sea. Draken International has used the L-159E for several years fulfilling U.S. military contracts.
“We are excited to work with Draken Europe—the company is in the vanguard of the Live Virtual Collective training pathway for future forces, embracing innovation and leading-edge technology in its operations,“ said Viktor Sotona, president and CEO of Aero Vodochody. “The L-159E is highly suited to its role as an agile aggressor platform, so we anticipate strong demand for the services that Draken provides. As the L-159E’s OEM, we look forward to many years supporting the Draken Europe fleet.”
The contractor-owned, contractor-operated IRAATS activity is the first of its kind implemented by the RAF. Schedules call for it to run for three years, replacing and expanding upon the capabilities lost by the disbandment at the end of March of the RAF’s Leeming-based No. 100 Squadron, which flew aging Hawk T.Mk 1 advanced trainers until the RAF withdrew the type from use (apart from those with the Red Arrows display team). Draken Europe’s Falcon 20 fleet regularly operated alongside the Hawks, acting as electronic warfare “aggressors” and will continue in that role with the L-159s. IRAATS bridges the gap until the RAF introduces its Next Generation Operation Training.