Farnborough, UK Having recently acquired ATAC (Advanced Tactical Advantage Company), which hires out its small fleet of ex-military jets as “red air” opponents to a number of air forces, Textron is hoping to become a major player in training. The company is seeking contracts not only as providers of aerial adversaries but for pilot screening and training in other areas where it believes it can accomplish tasks more cheaply than the government. In an interview with Air Force Magazine, Russ Bartlett, CEO of the newly branded Textron Airborne Solutions, said the adversary market is rapidly expanding, and the company is “leveraging our broad involvement” in programs such as the T-6 trainer, Cessna 172, Beech King Air, and the new Scorpion jet to “help offload” some of the training now done by the government. “There’s not enough Air Force” to provide sufficient numbers of quality adversaries, especially for fifth-generation aircraft, Bartlett said. “The F-35 needs a lot of bandits” to fight against in order to obtain meaningful training, he said.
The new company will provide not only cost-effective aerial targets that accurately simulate more advanced threats, but will invest in live, virtual constructive means to be able to participate in the “Red Flag” type exercises of the near future. Jeffrey Parker, CEO of ATAC, said the Air Force has a request for information on the street asking for 3,000 hours a year of adversary work at Nellis AFB, Nev., alone, and the Navy is similarly looking to award a major adversary contract at NAS Fallon, Nev. The contracts require “fourth generation” capabilities, and Parker said Textron is shopping for representative fighters in that class. It currently uses A-4 Skyhawks, Israeli Kfirs, and some older types in its adversary work. The two contracts alone will “more than double” the adversary market, Bartlett said, so “there’s incredible growth, here.”