In our Aug/Sept issue, Rob Erdos muses on float flying and we discuss night aerial firefighting. Plus: Air Canada in the pandemic, KF Aerospace at 50 and Canadians in the Battle of Britain.
Top Aces has acquired 25 former Belgian Air Force Dassault-Breguet/Dornier Alpha Jets, according to information from Belgian Press Agency Belga on July 8.
The Montreal-based adversary air provider delivers combat training services to Canadian, American, German and Australian forces, among others, with a mixed fleet of Alpha Jet, Douglas A4 Skyhawk and Learjet 35A aircraft. The company also intends to add the Lockheed Martin F-16A fighter jet to its fleet, which offers superior speed, acceleration and manoeuvrability, all of which will benefit its aggressor air program.
If finalized, the Belgian aircraft acquisition would more than double the size of Top Aces’ current Alpha Jet fleet. The company operates about 20 of the Dornier jets, which were formerly owned by the German Air Force.
The sale was led by the Belgian Directorate General of Material Resources (DG-MR) of the Defense Staff. No further information was provided on the contract award or cost.
The Belgian Ministry of Defence announced the potential sale of 25 Alpha Jets in December 2018. The package included spares, ground equipment, additional engines and a simulator. The simulator was reportedly sold to an Austrian aerospace company, AMST, which specializes in training fighter pilots.
The Alpha Jets were officially withdrawn from Belgian service during a small ceremony at Cazaux in France on Oct. 11, 2018, though they remained in service with the French Armée de l’Air until the end of 2019. The aircraft were operated by the joint Belgo-French AJeTS (Advanced Jet Training School) at Cazaux and had been gradually removed from service and stored over the past several years.
One of the pioneers of what is often called aggressor or “red” air training, Top Aces in October 2019 was awarded part of US$6.4 billion contract for adversary air services to the United States Air Force (USAF). It was one of seven firms selected to participate in the Combat Air Force Contracted Air Support contract, a collective, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that will solicit individual tenders for advanced adversary air capabilities at 12 USAF bases.
Top Aces has been simulating hostile threats for fighter pilots, naval crews and land forces for the Canadian Armed Forces since the mid-2000s. In October 2017, it was awarded the permanent domestic Contracted Airborne Training Services (CATS) program under a 10-year deal worth about $480 million, including options to extend the service to 2031 and the value to as much as $1.4 billion.
The company has secured a similar training support contract with the German Armed Forces in 2014 and, more recently, a two-year trial with the Australian Defence Force. It is also bidding on U.S. Navy aggressor air programs and partnering with Leonardo and Inzpire on the U.K.’s Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) program. To date, the company has accumulated over 81,000 accident-free flight hours.