Draken Europe has won a six-year contract to provide ‘aggressor’ aircraft and pilots for RAF pilots to “fight” against during combat training.

The new ‘Interim Red Air Aggressor Training Service’ (IRAATS) will use the L-159E Honey Badger, replacing the retired Hawk T1s in this role.

The jets will be based at Teesside Airport, you can read more about the plans at the airport for this here.

According to a news release from the RAF:

“Royal Air Force fighter pilots will face a new adversary when conducting combat training following the signing of a contract for the interim provision of a Red Air ‘aggressor’ service. Known as the Interim Red Air Aggressor Training Service (IRAATS), from the 1st July the six-year contract with Draken Europe will see RAF fighter squadrons conduct training against fighter jets replicating the tactics, techniques and procedures of potential adversaries.

The new service will use the L-159E Honey Badger, a military aircraft to be flown to military standards by experienced ex-military fast jet pilots regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority. A simulated airborne threat was previously provided by the Hawk T1, the retirement of which was announced in the Defence Command Paper last year.  The L-159E delivers a capability enhancement over the Hawk through increased endurance, an air-to-air radar and a radar warning receiver.”

Air Commodore Townsend.Senior Responsible Owner, was quoted as saying:

“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.

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.”

Paul Armstrong, CEO at Draken Europe, said:

“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.

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 Royal Air Force add that while this is the first such contract for medium to fast air capability placed in the UK, although a similar service is currently being delivered by Draken International to the United States Air Force.

The contract was placed on the 28th March 2022 and is for three years (1st July 2022 to 30th June 2025), with options for up to a further three years. A replacement capability will in due course be provided by the Next Generation Operational Training (NGOT) Programme.

George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also works for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Chris.
Chris.
1 month ago

It would be nice to see them at RIAT this year.

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
1 month ago

Sounds great. Would love to see them dressed up in RAF colours and roundels

Tom Keane
Tom Keane
1 month ago

So… another lovely lucrative sub contract, this time to a ‘private air force’, to provide mock battles across the skies of northern Scotland.

Andrew GOWARD
Andrew GOWARD
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Keane

And ? Your point is?

Darren hall
Darren hall
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew GOWARD

He is like a fist… pointless…

grizzler
grizzler
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew GOWARD

I think there is a subtle point there tbh …probably a few …money going to private air force ,who can control the price, maybe who is employed by them, and who in the government (or otherwise) have fingers and influence …i dunno if any of that is bolox or not – but there is a point …how far do you go with privatisation being the main one.

Mark B
Mark B
1 month ago
Reply to  grizzler

Grizzler the company will have bid for the work which should in theory at least have got the best value result available. To achieve better value would probably mean encouraging more privatised companies to compete. If the RAF did it in-house it would almost certainly mean higher cost with people sat around on the backsides doing nothing most of the year. An external company will almost certainly have other forms of income. It is an age old tradition to assume anyone in power is corrupt. A minority are i’m sure but the real enemy I’m afraid is incompetence which is… Read more »

Gerard Law
Gerard Law
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark B

Hmmm…
Following the PPE fiasco with a) contracts being dished out to middle-men via a formal fast-track procedure for chums of government ministers, and b) astonishing amounts of sub-standard gear being bought & paid for and only THEN rejected as useless, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to wonder about the wisdom of privatizing part of our air-defence function. It’s not a case of buying from a mature and well-informed market, like the Army buying off-the-sheriff Japanese pick-up trucks. How many private air forces are out there supplying jet-combat services on a daily basis to a discerning customer base?

Richard Leighton
Richard Leighton
28 days ago
Reply to  Gerard Law

Well, Draken, providing a similar fast-jet ‘Red Aggressor’ service to the USAF for that past however many years, for one! It’s sad that, yet another, historical squadron (100) has bitten the dust; however, the country has to look to ‘cost-effective’ solutions to maintain efficiency standards. This seems to be the ‘best-fit’, ATM.

Gerard Law
Gerard Law
27 days ago

Yes, Draken have been providing aggressor services to the USAF “for one”, but the emphasis is on the “one”. AND that contract is being terminated in June, so the RAF deal will be Draken’s only such contract. We’re back to a single customer buying from a single supplier. That’s not a classic market situation in Economics, with multiple suppliers delivering to a large number of well-informed, repeat customers, leading to competitive pricing and high quality goods. (Eg, I’m a licensed radio amateur. Fifty years ago, we still built transmitters from scratch but now I can get a sophisticated transceiver for… Read more »

johan
johan
27 days ago
Reply to  Gerard Law

Before judging on the PPE fiasco i would consider at the time, every other country was after the same PPE. yes some is wrapped wrong and some is unsuitable for certain uses. But a lot has been sold along the chain, but you wont hear that. not in the media interest. Govt Procurement is designed to protect the public purse, and in the case of the pandemic was exploited by a few. but no more than the people exploiting the furlough scheme and suddenly a self employed person found out that only earning 50p last year wasnt such a good… Read more »

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Keane

… and the north east this afternoon. That’s England, also part of the United Kingdom.

Hayden White
Hayden White
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Keane

Do you want our RAF and RN to be the best or not?

Frank62
Frank62
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Keane

But will they be able to provide basic air to air or strike capability like the Hawks did in a crisis?
With so few combat jets in the RAF it’s more important than ever.

Last edited 1 month ago by Frank62
Nick Lake
Nick Lake
29 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

No, they’re privately run, not part of British forces.

johan
johan
27 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

Hawk T1s only 45% of the fleet were converted to accept ATA capability, which they highlighted it needed a Awacs to support it as its Radar was so poor. Like the Typhoon Tranche 1s, in the aggressor roles they need a AWACS to look and watch for them. and currently UK doesnt have any AWACS so great airframe just has a shite out of date radar.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago

These AC might have better performance but I’m generally against privatisation. They cut the Hawk, like so much else, but the requirement usually remains. And here certainly so .Will this cost more than the in house solution with 100 Sqn over the long term?

grizzler
grizzler
1 month ago

agreed

Andrew Deacon
Andrew Deacon
1 month ago

I think there’s an argument though that a private contractor might challenge the RAF in ways an in house team can’t , they aren’t restricted in RAF dogma.
also how much would it cost to add radar RWR etc to the hawks.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Deacon

Yes, I can see that. A new type too. I also believe it’s ex RAF crew who go on to these private ventures? Once the in house skills are lost with a capability privatised as the pipeline of trained personnel to industry stops then where does the expertise come from? I’m not saying that’s exactly the case with aggressor role as there will always be ex RAF pilots but in general terms why I’m against privatization in many areas of defence.

Anyway, as the spin says, “Its new!” And another 2 squadrons go to the wall.

Sean
Sean
1 month ago

These sort of contracts will always be jobs for the boys, when this generation of draken pilots retire there will be the next generation and so on. Unfortunately it’s all about saving money as we have seen with a lot of contracts for various things now in the MOD

johan
johan
27 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Deacon

The issue of the T1s and much like the Tranche 1 Typhoons, its not a cost, they lack the capacity to increase the power supply.
they are at the power limits for onboard supply, and BAE did do a investigation in to upgrading the power out puts.
and to be very honest its a complete rebuild and requires new Engines/wiring/generator system as its all a little 70s inside.

johan
johan
27 days ago

Do agree to the point, But then How many aggressor Aircraft does the UK need, and the cost of servicing of a single type. and when you get into it the Hawk T1s are a very poor aggressor aircraft due to the Radar. like Tranche 1 Typhoons they need support of a AWACS to be a aggressor. you see the knock on effect that these types are suffering much like a Challenger 2, they needed a update and were never given as its a training aircraft. and Pilot numbers now for Fast jets per year is into the 10s not… Read more »

David A
David A
1 month ago

The jets will be based at Teesside Airport”. There is a good chance they will get nicked!

Marked
Marked
1 month ago
Reply to  David A

There’s already a fleet of Draken Dassault Falcon jets at the airport, they seem to have them all secured as nobody has taken one for a joyride yet.

Looking forward to these flying over me regularly, it’s been quiet recently without the Leeming hawks joining them of the coast.

James Dee
James Dee
1 month ago
Reply to  David A

Iol from Boro

Nick Lake
Nick Lake
29 days ago
Reply to  David A

Hahaa

Angus
Angus
1 month ago

Better aircraft for sure but the loss of flying jobs for the in service pilots is not a win. What about the Senior Service, will they fly down off Cornwall too to simulate as the Hawk once did? It will be cheaper than in house for sure as I suspect it’s paid for by the flight hour? US have been doing it for years as have we in many roles already. Not much of an air force left these days 😳

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
1 month ago

Draken probably really needs this contract, their contract to provide Red Flag adversary at Nellis base in the US has not been renewed and will end next year. Issue is US wants 4th gen aircraft with modern datalinks and equipment to train against and Draken only has 3rd gen (mainly jet trainers, Dassault Mirage and second hand F-16 A/C from Netherlands have just started arriving). Draken do still have the contract for adversary services at a couple of other US airbases though they may now be at risk. Its competitor has a few more early F-16/F-18 but both companies would… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Watcherzero
Watcherzero
Watcherzero
1 month ago

The Draken aircraft will be based at Teeside Airport, the company has just applied for planning permission to double the number of hangers it has at the airport to accommodate 8 planes and 30 staff.

Chris
Chris
1 month ago

Living in Middlesbrough, I can’t wait to see these come over the top.

Jonathan
Jonathan
1 month ago

The problem is with this sort of thing it’s purely contract driven, there is no added benefit or ability to modify. If the RAF own and operate the aircraft they can choose what they do with them and there is no extra cost…you try to modify a contract and your paying out the nose as the contractor has you over a barrel….mmmm you want an extra sortie a week well we can do that for 200% or the contracted sortie price. saying that the fleet air arm/RN Has contracted out aggressor activity since the 1980s ( I think airworks had… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan

FRADU?

David Forsyth
David Forsyth
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan

That can be true but an astute specification drafter will have factored in the ability to have additional hours at a standard rate or a marginal increase. Question is – did they have an astute specifier? Bidding companies pay fir commercially astute sales/ bid people. The MoD and public sector generally struggle to match that as staff are recruited and trained in different competences.

johan
johan
27 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Much like the Air Tanker and the A320s and the Falcons, they build in a worse case scenario over a given period say 3 years, so that like Airtanker its to provide X Y Z Hours of tanker usage. and only if you go over this hours will you pay a premium rate. Air Tanker is not even close to its yearly hours, and with the reduction of types that can plug in. IE the P8s and E7s will use if required a Nato boom operator. this new Contract is exactly how it should be as its all clear and… Read more »

David
David
1 month ago

Just a thought but why can’t the RAF get hold of some ex-Soviet/Russian MIG-29 or Su27 fighters from the likes of Poland, Hungary, etc., to train against? If the crap hits the fan, these are the aircraft types our pilots would face – not Hawk T1s or HoneyBadgers (terrible name for an aircraft by the way!).

They obviously are available as Poland was ready to give MIG-29s to Ukraine.

Maybe I’m missing something?

Jay R
Jay R
1 month ago
Reply to  David

What are you missing? There is no infrastructure to support Migs or Sukhois in the UK. Aircraft availability would be terrible. The examples available to NATO will have a completely different electronic warfare system to russian aircraft. It is far simpler for Typhoons to act as “Red air”. The honey badger will be able to replicate many combat profiles of Russian and Chinese aircraft. The RAF already use tranche 1 Typhoons as aggressor aircraft.

Paul T
Paul T
1 month ago
Reply to  David

Echo who JayR has said, the training, maintenance and support costs would be horrendous, any spares support relying on Russia are obviously unsustainable at the moment, even Typhoon T1 would work out cost prohibitive for the role.

johan
johan
27 days ago
Reply to  David

Same reason why they don’t operate a Tranche 1 typhoon. Tranche 3 typhoon is a huge step forwards, F35s are a major step forward with Radar Power. 17 to 1 kill rate is the current record of a F35s over a Tranche 1 Typhoon. they never get close enough to the F35s.
as as proved in the Ukraine that if you cannot dominate the skies your army is toast.
pointless buying a dog fighter when a F35 is never going to engage you face to face,

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
1 month ago

Same time that Draken looses contract in America, it appears

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
1 month ago

Hopefully they didn’t let the army write the contract lol. Good news I think. I don’t know but the hawks are really old. If it’s flown by ex raf pilots surely the way they fly will be roughly similar to how they fly in the hawks. eg raf style. It is a shame if raf couldn’t own the aircraft or be able to use them if needed under dire situation. I not going to pretend I know lots about adversary training but I always thought the gripen would be a great aircraft to use. Or a split buy with honey… Read more »

Frank62
Frank62
1 month ago

Ahh, I hoped to see the old Swedish Saab Drakens flying over us! Cool aircraft.

Gerard Law
Gerard Law
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank62

Gorgeous!

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
1 month ago

Just when I thought “honey badger” was a bit soft and cuddly name for a war plane… I checked it out and apparently it’s one of the the most ferociously aggressive couldn’t give a damn kind of animals around. I won’t judge a plane by its name again. Lol 😁

Klonkie
Klonkie
28 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Hi Quentin the honey badger is a highly aggressive beast: quote below from Wikipedia:

“It is known to savagely and fearlessly attack almost any other species when escape is impossible, reportedly even repelling much larger predators such as lion and hyena.”

Steve
Steve
1 month ago

Hi,Using a aircraft developed from a EX Warsaw pact aircraft and used by the Russian airforce for training there pilot’s

David Collishaw
David Collishaw
1 month ago

Surely always fighting a lesser equipped adversary you degrade your own abilities.

I know they seem to think that typhoon and f35 will never Need to physically see the enemy aircraft but in those thoughts lies folly.

A bit like equipping a carrier with only eight planes and four war shots each or the Falklands air deterrent of four typhoons which isn’t even enough to provide 24hr CAP.

johan
johan
27 days ago

Falklands was a long time ago, FRS 1 was brand new and designed to offer Fleet air cap, considering a Gr3 couldnt fight air to air. and at that time 4 shots was about the norm. 4 typhoons @ Falklands are expected to last 48hrs on there own before reinforments arrive, and based on who is likely to attack the Falklands, Argentina would attack with Aircraft based on the same as the ones the used the last time.
Pointless having a huge poorly equipped army, ASK RUSSIA

Mark Forsyth
Mark Forsyth
29 days ago

I think it’s a great idea. I suspect a lot of RAF pilots, who just want to fly and not be desk bound will welcome the chance for a steady job, being based from a single location. Not stuck with all the rigmarole of additional military training and paperwork etc. As for comments about Hawk being used for local area defence, well if the UK was ever in that situation of needing them, then it is probably to late anyway.

Daveyb
Daveyb
28 days ago

As an about face, the USAF are not continuing with the Draken aggressor contract in the States. The rumour is that Draken’s aircraft are too old and do not meet potential threats, i.e. Chinese J20 and J31, plus possible Russian Su57.

Perhaps the RAF have made a bad decision on contracting out this requirement?

Makes you think why there was never a dedicated NATO squadron set up specifically to be red air?

Esteban
Esteban
27 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

The US provided it for them… For several decades.

johan
johan
27 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

There is a problem in the USA over there requirements for an aggressor squadron, in that they have so many different platforms which to call on. with the Raptor and F35s you need a suitable aggressor for these platforms which are ?????

Daveyb
Daveyb
26 days ago
Reply to  johan

This is the reason why they have reactivated the F117s. They are being used as red air stealth aircraft. It kind of says how far technology has come since the F117 went out of service. It also is said that the F117 still has better stealth then anything coming out of Russia or China.

johan
johan
27 days ago

When you consider that the RAF is servicing 75 T1s in its fleet and with 19 of the best going to the Reds. and replacing with 8 Drakken under contract you start to realise how wasteful the RAF is on some fronts. with fast jet pilots training in the 10s per year rather than the 100s, maybe they they should use the Reds as the aggressor squadrons. But another issue is a Hawk T1 is the same as sending up a Tiger Moth to face a Spitfire. and there lies the problem. Hawk is a great Airframe but T1s are… Read more »