Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) announced it received a third contract for adversary air live training, using its fleet of Mirage F1, in a first round of six contracts awarded by the Pentagon. Before the end of October 2020, the company will begin adversary air live training with pilots of the United States Air Force.

On September 29, 2020, ATAC announced it had been awarded a contract to train with the F-22 and F-35 pilots of the United States Air Force at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. “The award is the last of an initial round of 6 operating locations (OLs) the Air Force has selected,” said ATAC, subsidiary of the U.S. consortium Textron. 

Indeed, the company was also chosen for adversary air live, or Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) training at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, and Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. Training at the former should begin in October 2020, and at the latter by the end of the year. “ATAC is excited to have been selected to provide adversary training at Eglin, Luke and Holloman AFBs, and we stand ready to serve additional future operating locations and customers as their needs evolve,” said Scott Stacy, ATAC General Manager.

The other three locations awarded went to two competitors: Draken International for Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina and for the Air National Guard in Kelly Field in Texas, and TACAIR for Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base in Oregon. Eventually, 22 contracts for such services are expected to be signed.

A lucrative business

The Dassault Mirage F1 fighter jets acquired by ATAC that had previously belonged to the French Air Force were ordered in July 2017. The contract included 63 Mirage F1 fighter jets, 6 millions of spare parts, and 150 spare Atar 9K50 engines, for a total value of €25 million. Deliveries were completed on March 2, 2019.

The first flight took place on August 22, 2019, when a Mirage F1B (two-seater) took off for a test flight from ATAC’s facility in Fort Worth near Dallas, Texas. The plane was still sporting the special livery created for its retirement flight above the Champs Elysees during France's national day parade on July 14, 2014.

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Five years after its retirement from the French Armée de l’air, the Mirage F1 completed its maiden flight in the United States as part of a private fleet. 63 Dassault fighter jets were acquired by Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC), a subsidiary of Textron.
 

In October 2019, the Pentagon chose seven contractors to provide realistic training known as adversary air services (ADAIR) to the USAF, for a total of $6.4 billion in contracts with 37,000 hours of training flight expected annually. To this effect, Draken International, ATAC’s main competitor, also acquired 22 Mirage F1 fighter jets from the Spanish Air Force.

The US Air Force needs "more capability and they need more capacity. They can’t generate that internally anymore,” ATAC chief executive Jeffrey Parker commented when the company acquired the Mirage F1s.

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The majority of air forces are maintained and commanded by sovereign states, being part of their military structures and having the aim of protecting the country’s interests. However, there is another kind of air forces: the private ones, belonging to commercial companies and offering their services for profit.