Commercial tactical jet companies like Airborne Tactical Advantage Co. (ATAC), aka “Professional Bandits”, simulate enemy aircraft in aerial combat exercises. They also save life expenditure on Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force fighters.

“What we see is a growing interest and a growing need for outsourcing certain traditional military training tasks we used to always handle ourselves,” said Russ Barlett, president and CEO of Textron Airborne Solutions. “Flying foreign fighters, for example, providing adversary services to U.S. forces, has become acceptable, in fact essential to training our air crews for their deployments.

ATAC was recently purchased by Textron Airborne Solutions. The company was formed in 1996 and operates a fleet of 26 jets. The inventory includes six supersonic Israeli Aircraft Industries F-21A Kfirs, 16 subsonic, mid-performance ex-Swiss Air Force Hawker Hunters, and four Czech-built L-39 Albatros trainers.

ATAC has performed adversary roles during major workup campaigns.  This includes acting as adversary fighters for the “TOPGUN” program, Red Flag exercises and F-22 Raptor training. They have also participated participating in JTAC/FAC-A/CAS ground controller training for the Navy and Air Force.

Outsourcing to professional bandits is a key factor in conserving the life expectancy of Department of Defense tactical fighters.  Instead of using internal resources and operational flight hour dollars to fill the role of adversaries, companies like ATAC are able to provide that service.  The services are able to increase life expectancy on aging airframes like the F/A-18C Hornets, older F-16 C/D’s, and F-15 Strike Eagles.

If you haven’t noticed, the readiness picture has also looked pretty bleak as of late.  Any opportunity to help improving overall readiness is worth the effort.

While the services also maintain professional squadrons like the VFC-12 Fighting Omars, those jets are beginning to show their age as well. Commercial companies like ATAC can help ease the adversary operational tempo. ATAC is also looking to expand beyond the Department of Defense.

“ATAC was a great fit for our new company,” Barlett said. “We see continued opportunities not only within the United States — where there is a lot of work — but also around in other air forces globally.”

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Top Photo credit: ATAC Kfir Photo credit: