Having been awarded the long-term Contracted Airborne Training Services (CATS) by the Canadian government, combat airborne training services provider Top Aces is now looking towards a major competition in the UK known as ASDOT (Air Support to Defence Operational Training).
The Canadian company – which rebranded from Discovery Air Defence Services in February – is part of the Red Aces team that is bidding for the contract. As well as Top Aces, the team comprises Leonardo and UK training specialists Inzpire. In March the team was down-selected by the UK Ministry of Defence to compete for the contract.
Red Aces intends to offer training capabilities that far exceed those currently fielded within the UK live training environment. Red Aces will choose these capabilities to meet the evolving operational and technological needs of Defence Operational Training out to 2035 and beyond; this has the potential to provide essential support to future UK Air, Land and Maritime force elements as they train to defend the UK and its interests worldwide.
Following an extended evaluation phase, Top Aces (then still trading as Discovery Air) was awarded the Canadian CATS contract last October. The company was the incumbent Red Air adversary provider to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), and received an extension contract while the new CATS evaluation was ongoing. The new contract is for 10 years, with a two-year and a 17-month extension option.
To meet its CATS commitments, Top Aces operates a fleet of modernised Alpha Jets and Learjet aircraft to fly fighter adversary and electronic warfare training missions for the RCAF, operating from bases alongside the fighter force. The company also provides similar services to the Luftwaffe in Germany, using A-4 Skyhawks, and has activities in the US. At the end of April the company logged its 70,000th hour of contracted fast-jet operations.
Australia is another country that is evaluating contractorised adversary support. Top Aces sent Alpha Jets to operate as aggressors at the Royal Australian Air Force’s F/A-18 Hornet base at Williamtown as part of an extended evaluation that also included Learjet aircraft from Air Affairs Australia operating as EW/ combat support platforms.