Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Top Aces"...

...is making considerable strides (links added; via Spotlight on Military News and International Affairs--see Update for the revival of 414 Squadron):
Privatizing Target Practice
Canadian Firm Takes on Military's Training Chores

A small Canadian training firm, which just seven years ago consisted of three former fighter aircraft pilots, has cornered the Canadian market in tactical aviation services.

The turning point for Top Aces of Pointe Claire, Quebec [details of its aircraft etc. at link], came in 2005, when it won a 93.9 million Canadian dollar ($92 million) contract to provide fast jets for Canadian Forces training. Since then, the firm has expanded to provide a variety of aviation-based training services for the Canadian Army, Air Force, Navy and special forces in a series of contracts that run until spring 2010.

"We are now the exclusive provider of outsourced tactical aviation services to the Canadian government," said Paul Bouchard, a co-chief executive and one of the company's founding members.

Under the Contracted Airborne Training Services (CATS) project, Top Aces provides services that include simulating hostile aircraft, towing targets to train gunnery and missile crews, testing radar and communications gear, and providing training for forward air controllers. Also part of the package is the provision of electronic warfare training, including jamming capabilities in a simulated combat environment...

...Top Aces has two fleets of aircraft to handle such duties. It has eight Dornier Alpha trainer jets to serve the Canadian Forces, with eight more due to be delivered by December.

In addition, the company has four modified Westwind business jets for target-towing duties, mainly for the Canadian Navy.

...Six months after winning the deal, its Alpha jets were taking part in training Canadian Army forward air controllers heading to Afghanistan [emphasis added].

Greg Colman, a Toronto-based financial analyst, said Top Aces' strength is in its pilots, who are all seasoned former CF-18 fighter aircraft aviators [emphasis added]. At the same time, a financial sharing arrangement has given employees a monetary stake in the company.

...The company's maintenance crews have reached a serviceability rate for the Alpha and Westwind aircraft of 98 percent, well beyond what a military fighter squadron could match, Bouchard said.

Also, Top Aces pilots have an average of 1,500 hours of fighter jet flying time.

Bouchard also pointed out that the firm does not siphon pilots directly from the Canadian Air Force, instead recruiting aviators who intend to retire from the service. In that respect, the Canadian Forces still continues to have access to their specialized skills, he said.

"The Defence Department is getting a significant continued value from all that investment they made in those guys over 20 years," Bouchard said.
Update: 414 flies again:
The air force has resurrected a squadron with a historic record to play the bad guys in electronic warfare training.

The reborn 414 Electronic Warfare Support Squadron is a direct descendant of a Second World War formation that flew the famous Spitfire, among other aircraft.

It was disbanded and reassembled several times since the war.

In its new variation, the Ottawa-based squadron will help train pilots in CF-18 Hornet jets and sailors aboard combat ships by simulating enemy attacks using radio and radar jamming equipment and other electronic gear.

The squadron will operate Dassault-Dornier Alpha jets, French/German-built aircraft owned by Top Aces Consulting Inc. [emphasis added], a Quebec firm which has been involved in electronic warfare training on a contract basis since 2005.

They may also fly aboard American air force EKC-135 electronic warfare aircraft [just EC-135, actually].

"We're what's called the force adversary," said Lt. Col. Larry Weir, the squadron commander.

"We come in and we take on the role of the adversary, so when we fly against the Hornets or when we fly missions against the ships we're jamming radars, making communications a challenge for them, simulating missile strikes and generally raising their level of readiness."
More from the official news release:
The re-activation of 414 (EWS) Squadron as an independent flying unit reporting to the commander of 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec will result in a definite improvement in the way the Air Force delivers electronic warfare support...


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