Paging Clarie Chennault, Ukraine edition

Draken International’s No.574 Mirage F-1M fresh out of the paint barn, Nov 2019. The company recently picked up a ton of retired supersonic fighter bombers (20 single-seat Mirage F1Ms and two two-seat F1Bs) from Spain and has been busy putting them back together and getting them flightworthy, as part of the growing “Red Air” business.

LT Taylor Buck (USNA 2016), currently a screwtop driver with VAW-125, has an interesting take in this month’s Proceedings, on rebooting the Flying Tigers but instead of Curtiss P-40s and Claire Chennault’s 100 volunteer flyboys, it would be more of a shell corporation with privately-owned high-performance jets and fighter jocks looking for a challenge as a military contractor.

With all of the second-hand Mirages, MiGs, F-16s and F-18s owned by the assorted commercial aggressor firms, it’s not a terrible idea.

From the piece:

Just as the original volunteers flew U.S.-designed P-40 Warhawks sold under foreign license, assembled in the CAMCO factory in Rangoon, Burma, modern diplomatic interests would be best served if the AVG did not fly aircraft supplied directly from the active U.S. government inventory. Fortunately, red air contractors already possess a carefully curated treasure-trove of warbirds from which an AVG could be assembled.

ATAC owns a fleet of more than 90 aircraft, including the Mirage F1, F-21 Kfir, Mk 58 Hawker Hunter, and L-39 Albatross. The JTAC/FAC focused contractor “Blue Air Training” possesses seven OV-10D+/G Broncos, eight A-90 Raiders, six PC-9A/F Pilatuses, and a fleet of BAC 167 Strikemasters and IAR 823 Brasovs. Tac-Air operates the Embraer EMB 312F Tucano (A-27), Canadair CF-5D, Siai-Marchetti SF-260TP, Su-27, and A-29 Super Tucano. Draken owns a “dozen ex-South African Atlas Cheetahs, and 22 ex-Spanish Air Force Mirage F1Ms plus assorted other subsonic jets . . . A-4 Skyhawks, L-159 Honey Badgers, L-39s, and MB339s . . . as well as a deep backstock of MiG-21s.” Top Aces operates the Bombardier Learjet 35A, Dornier Alpha Jet, and the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk.

Draken, Top Aces, Air USA, and Tac-Air boast the best potential for fourth-generation fighters that could help establish an AVG-enforced no-fly zone. Draken owns 24 former Norwegian and Dutch F-16s. Top Aces operates 29 ex-Israeli F-16A/Bs. Air USA recently acquired 46 Australian F/A-18A/B Hornets that supplement its healthy attack and command-and-control fleet, which includes the L-39, BAE Hawk Mk.67, Cessna 0-2/C-337 Skymaster.

Tac-Air flies an unspecified number of F-16Cs as well as 25 F-5 Advanced Tigers upgraded with heads-up displays and hands-on-throttle-and-stick controls, “open architecture mission computers and tailored operational flight programs that enable integration of advanced radar and [radar-warning receiver] systems, [infrared search-and-track systems], [electronic attack], datalinks,” and so on. It refers to the Advanced Tigers as a “4th generation adversary platform with 3rd generation economy.”

More here.

And in related news, the Ukraine Air Force is trying to crowd-source new fighters. Because this is 2022.

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