Draken’s L-159Es will take over the aggressor role of the recently retired Hawk T1 fleet.
The Royal Air Force awarded a six-year contract to Draken to provide aggressor aircraft to support the training of Typhoon and F-35B pilots, replicating the tactics, techniques and procedures of potential adversaries. This is the first such contract placed in the United Kingdom, although a similar service is currently being delivered by Draken International and other contractors to the United States Air Force.
“This exciting new capability increases the quality of operational training. By improving the currency, capability and survivability in combat of our Lightning and Typhoon fighter pilots we will enhance the potency of the UK’s Combat Air capability”, said Air Commodore Townsend, Senior Responsible Owner. “The Contract was delivered through competition, from inception to contract signature, in an exceptionally short timescale of only six months. It is timely, affordable, deliverable and provides Defence with excellent value for money.”
Beginning from the July, Draken Europe will use the L-159E Honey Badger to provide simulated airborne threat as part of the Interim Red Air Aggressor Training Service (IRAATS) program. This capability was previously provided by the recently retired Hawk T1. As mentioned by the RAF, the L-159E delivers a capability enhancement over the Hawk through increased endurance, an air-to-air radar and a radar warning receiver.
“Draken Europe has been trusted by the UK Government to deliver the world’s most technologically advanced operational readiness training to the RAF and the Royal Navy for many years. Our team takes very seriously the nationally significant role that they have training military personnel from the UK and its strategic allies, providing a range of multi-platform effects using next-generation technologies”, said Paul Armstrong, CEO at Draken Europe. “We’re proud to be bringing an entirely new capability to the UK defence sector – especially so at a time when geo-political events have brought into sharp relief the need for our armed forces personnel to be trained effectively to defend themselves from attack.”
The contract, announced last week, was placed on Mar. 28, 2022 and currently covers three years, with options for up to a further three years. The L-159Es will be based at Teesside International Airport, where Draken’s existing DA20 Falcon aircraft fleet (used for adversary air, electronic warfare training and target and banner towing) are currently located. The L-159s, formerly operated by the Czech Air Force and upgraded by the manufacturer Aero Vodochody, will be registered and regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
As already mentioned, the Red Air capability was provided by the Hawk T1 trainers assigned to 100 Squadron. The Hawk T1 was replaced in its flight training role by the Hawk T2, but it was kept in service as aggressor aircraft. Following the latest Defence Command Paper last year, it was decided to retire the older Hawk model by March 31, 2022, after more than 40 years of service. The only T1s that will remain in service until 2030 are the ones assigned to the Red Arrows.