Draken International has edged out Textron’s [TXT] Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) for a $280 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to supply and fly adversary fighters for training missions at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Draken expects to provide more than 5,600 flight hours a year through 2023 under the Nellis Adversary Air (ADAIR) II contract, which will replace the current Nellis ADAIR I contract, also held by Draken. The original contract began as an 800-hour proof-of-concept in the fall of 2015. 

Draken International is adding Mirage fighter jets to its adversary air fleet. (Draken photo)
Draken International is adding Mirage fighter jets to its adversary air fleet. (Draken photo)

Draken, which is based in Lakeland, Fla., has been supporting Nellis with two kinds of subsonic aircraft: Douglas A-4 Skyhawks and Czech L-159 Honey Badgers. It is expanding its fleet by overhauling and adding two types of supersonic fighters — French-built Mirage F1M/Bs and South African-made Cheetahs — and expects some of those planes to arrive in the United States in August.

“We are thrilled to be able to continue supporting the U.S. Air Force at Nellis Air Force Base through the ADAIR II contract,” said Jared Isaacman, Draken’s chief executive officer. “With an ever-growing fleet of capable, cost-effective fighter aircraft, we will continue to enhance our capabilities to provide realistic, threat-representative ADAIR for the U.S. Air Force and joint partners alike.”

Draken’s other customers include the French Navy, the U.S. Defense Department-led F-35 operational test team and the U.S. Air National Guard, Marine Corps and Navy.

Meanwhile, adversary air companies are gearing up to compete for the Combat Air Forces (CAF) Contracted Air Support (CAS) contact, which will provide services at about 12 Air Force and Air National Guard bases over 10 years. Industry representatives say the contract could total 40,000 flight hours and be valued at $6 billion.

The Air Force’s Air Combat Command told an industry gathering last week that the service plans to issue a final request for proposals for CAF CAS on July 27 and make seven indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity awards in July 2019.

The Nellis ADAIR II and CAF CAS contracts are expected to supplement the Air Force’s own adversary air units, including two F-16 squadrons at Nellis and Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska and two T-38 squadrons at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.

Air Force Gen. James “Mike” Holmes, the head of Air Combat Command, told reporters in September that budget, personnel and time constraints were forcing the Air Force to look to contractors to meet its growing demand for adversary air, or “red air,” forces (Defense Daily, Sept. 18, 2017).