Air services

Draken will provide red air services to the Royal Air Force

Draken L-159 in training in the United States. (Photo: Drake)

Draken’s L-159Es will take on the aggressor role for the recently retired Hawk T1 fleet.

The Royal Air Force awarded a six-year contract to Draken to supply aggressor aircraft to support Typhoon and F-35B pilot training, replicating the tactics, techniques and procedures of potential adversaries. This is the first such contract in the UK, although a similar service is currently provided by Draken International and other contractors to the US Air Force.

“This exciting new capability increases the quality of operational training. By improving the combat value, capability and survivability of our Lightning and Typhoon fighter pilots, we will strengthen the power of the UK’s combat air capability,” said Air Commodore Townsend, Principal Responsible Owner. “The contract was delivered through competitive bidding, from inception to contract signature, in an exceptionally short timeframe of just six months. It is timely, affordable, deliverable and provides Defense with excellent value for money.

Starting in July, Draken Europe will use the L-159E Honey Badger to simulate an air 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 offers a capability upgrade over the Hawk through increased endurance, air-to-air radar and a radar warning receiver.

“For many years, the UK Government has relied on Draken Europe to deliver the world’s most technologically advanced operational readiness training to the RAF and Royal Navy. Our team takes very seriously the important role they play domestically in training military personnel for the UK and its strategic allies, delivering a range of cross-platform effects using next-generation technologies,” said Paul Armstrong, CEO of Draken Europe. “We are proud to bring an entirely new capability to the UK defense sector, particularly at a time when geopolitical events have highlighted the need for our armed forces personnel to be trained effectively to defend against attacks.”

File photo of a Hawk T1 performing aerobatic maneuvers. (Photo: RAF)

The contract, announced last week, was awarded on March 28, 2022 and currently covers three years, with options for up to three additional years. The L-159Es will be based at Teesside International Airport, where Draken’s existing fleet of DA20 Falcon aircraft are currently located (used for adversary aviation, electronic warfare training and towing targets and banners). The L-159s, formerly operated by the Czech Air Force and modernized by manufacturer Aero Vodochody, will be registered and regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

As already mentioned, the Red Air capability was provided by Hawk T1 trainers assigned to 100 Squadron. The Hawk T1 was replaced in its flight training role by the Hawk T2, but it remained in service as an aggressor aircraft. Following the latest Defense Command document from last year, it has been decided to retire the older model Hawk by March 31, 2022, after more than 40 years in service. The only T1s that will remain in service until 2030 are those assigned to the Red Arrows.

Stefano D’Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in industrial engineering, he is also studying for a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. Electronic warfare, vagrant ammunition and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.