Just over a month after the announcement of Draken Europe’s three-year £100m interim contract providing red air ‘aggressor’ training to the RAF on April 8, two of the eight Aero Vodochody L-159E Advanced Light Combat Aircraft (ALCA) are expected to touch down today at Draken’s facility, Teesside International Airport in Northern England.
Also known as the ‘Honey Badger’ the two L-159E airframes’ serials N159EM and N267EM departed the US, taking the transatlantic route of Greenland and Iceland, using the callsigns Arctic 1 and Arctic 2.
At the the time of writing, both aircraft are currently en-route to Prestwick airport in Scotland. The pair are due to arrive at Teesside at 18:30pm [May 11]. One of Draken Europe's Falcon 20s is expected to depart Teesside at 16:30pm and meet up with the two Honey Badgers for an aerial photoshoot prior to their arrival at Teesside.
This arrival matches with Key.Aero’s report in April that the first two Honey Badgers would arrive in early May, the other two airframes (N264EM, and N265EM) are due to fly from Nellis AFB to Lakeland Linder International Airport in Florida where Draken International is based. This is to undergo an ADS-B upgrade and are expected to receive a new digital paint scheme before joining the first two at Teesside at the end of May.
It is unclear when the other half of the fleet will arrive in the UK, but it expected to be in the latter term of 2022. The contract with the RAF is to commence on July 1, four months after the UK MOD retired its dedicated aggressor squadrons and its fleet of Hawk T1As at RAF Leeming and RNAS Culdrose.
The fleet of eight will provide a higher capability to the RAF than the Hawk T1As, operating a FIAR Grifo air to air radar and radar warning receiver. Leonardo are responsible for this radar and are allegedly not supporting the radar system on the Draken Honey Badgers although, this is likely to be rectified.
Draken Europe hold the UK red air training torch for three years with the contract due to expire on June 30, 2025, with the option to extend up to another three years. The latter depends upon the implementation of the the UK's Next Generation Operational Training (NGOT) programme which will cover Red Air/Adversary training.