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New Red Air training service for RAF Fighter Squadrons

People stand in front of Spitfire model aircraft.

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.

Three Draken L-159s fly in formation.
Draken L-159s in formation.

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.

"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."

Air Commodore Townsend
Senior Responsible Owner

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.

"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."

Paul Armstrong
CEO at Draken Europe

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.  The contract will create up to 28 additional jobs in the aviation industry and contribute towards the development of Teesside International Airport where the L-159Es will be collocated with Draken’s existing DA20 Falcon aircraft fleet.

A replacement capability will in due course be provided by the Next Generation Operational Training (NGOT) Programme.