Speaking to MT at Farnborough 2016 this week, Russ Bartlett, former President of Beechcraft Defense Company, explained the rationale behind the launch of Textron Airborne Solutions, of which new company he has now been appointed President and CEO. “Examining the market for live flying training services – especially aggressor air – it is readily apparent many air forces cannot continue to fly front-line aircraft in a training role. The core capability we now have in Textron Airborne Solutions, therefore, meets an existing and growing demand in which we can leverage capability right across the corporation.”
That capability, for now, centres on Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC), which Textron acquired as recently as March this year. Jeffrey Parker, CEO and co-founder of ATAC, explains the company’s legacy and philosophy. “We have been providing tactical airborne training services for over twenty years and what we see right now is the perfect storm,” he says. “A combination of circumstances, ranging from high operational tempo to the fact that this winter the US Navy found that fully half its HORNET fleet was unavailable due to maintenance and other issues means that demand has never been higher and the demand for this kind of training service is definitely moving up.”
Piloting a fleet of 25 aircraft, including six KFIRs, 16 HUNTER Mk. 58s, and four L-39ZAs, ATAC’s 32 instructor pilots have a staggering total of over 120,000 hours fighter jet flying hours and provide some 6,000 hours training per year to US services. “All carrier strike groups, USAFE, units in Hawaii and along the South East Asian littoral – we are flying pretty much wherever the customer has needs,” said Parker.
The cost and operational advantages of contracting out this kind of training have become more and more obvious to a wider range of potential customers in the last decade and that fuels Textron’s ambitions in moving into an area new to it. “This is an opportunity for us to leverage the web of people and resources we have throughout Textron and ATAC is the first step on that path. We are looking for gowth in places where we aren’t right now,” said Bartlett.
Picture shows F-35 flying a training mission with an ATAC F-21 KFIR over the Gulf of Mexico, spring 2016. (Photo: ATC—A Textron Company)