The U.S. Navy has awarded Advanced Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) a contract to provide chase flight activities for the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 program. The indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity deal runs for five years, and will involve ATAC providing three of its Dassault Mirage F1 jets. They will be based at Naval Air Station/Joint Reserve Base Forth Worth in Texas, which is also the site of the F-35 final assembly line.
With operations scheduled to get started later this year or early in 2023, the Mirages will fly as chase aircraft for F-35s making their first flights and on production acceptance sorties. As well as providing general escort/safety overwatch, the aircraft will provide airspace clearance and support aircraft systems checks. They will also fly specific profiles as required by the test procedures. The expected usage will be around 600 hours per year. ATAC Mirages were earlier employed on F-35 chase operations in 2019/2020.
“Being chosen to provide F-35 chase services is yet another validation of ATAC’s continued industry-leading solution headlined by our Mirage F1s,” said Scott Stacy, the company’s SVP and general manager. “We are well-positioned for continued expansion following our successful wins in 2020 and the company’s sustained operations for our U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force customers.”
A unit within the Textron Systems segment of the Textron corporation, ATAC operates over 100 aircraft on contracted air services, including “Red Air” aggressor support to U.S. forces. As well as the Mirages, ATAC operates the IAI Kfir, Hawker Hunter and Aero L-39 Albatros. The company’s Adversary Center of Excellence is located at Fort Worth’s Alliance Airport, which was opened in September 2019.
ATAC acquired 63 Mirage F1s from the French air force in 2017 and began refurbishing the aircraft for their new roles. The first took to the air again on August 22, 2019, and the first revenue-earning operations were the aforementioned F-35 chase sorties. In July 2020 the company was awarded two major contracts as part of the U.S. Air Force’s Combat Air Force/Contracted Air Support (CAF CAS) program, covering the provision of aggressor services at Luke AFB, Arizona, and Holloman AFB, New Mexico, with six MIrages based at each location. In September that year ATAC also received a contract to provide similar services at Eglin AFB, Florida. The three locations are the primary training bases for the F-22 and F-35.