Aces High: Inside the 'Red Air' F-16 operations of Top Aces

The pilots of Arizona-based Top Aces are aggressively pitching the legendary F-16 Viper against some of the most advanced fighters in the world. James Deboer reports.

In 2018, the US Air Force issued a request for proposals (RFP) for adversary air support and received eight responses. A year later, the US Department of Defense announced the award of contracts worth an astonishing $6.4bn to seven civilian companies to provide air support services to the US military.

Top Aces F-16As [James Deboer]
Three of Top Aces’ F-16As in formation over Arizona. James DeBoer

In January 2021, less than three years after the RFP, an Antonov An-124 was loaded up with four F-16s. The mission was to transport the F-16s to another desert location thousands of miles away, where they would be reassembled so that they could go up against US military pilots. While this might sound like the beginning of a great Tom Clancy novel, it’s just the culmination of a vision that started in 2014.

Become a Premium Member to Read More

This is a premium article and requires an active Key.Aero subscription to view.

I’m an existing member, sign me in!

I don’t have a subscription…

Enjoy the following subscriber only benefits:

  • Unlimited access to all KeyAero content
  • Exclusive in-depth articles and analysis, videos, quizzes added daily
  • A fully searchable archive – boasting hundreds of thousands of pieces of quality aviation content
  • Access to read all our leading aviation magazines online - meaning you can enjoy the likes of FlyPast, Aeroplane Monthly, AirForces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, Aviation News, Airports of the World, PC Pilot and Airliner World - as soon as they leave the editor’s desk.
  • Access on any device- anywhere, anytime
  • Choose from our offers below