Top Aces flies its first ex-Israeli F-16A Netz

Top Aces, the advanced military adversary training provider, has flown the first of its newly-acquired fleet of former-Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-16A/B Block 5 Netz fighters and has also achieved certification to operate the type.

The F-16A Block 5 – registration N854TA ‘129’ (c/n 6V-15), formerly known as 129 with the IAF and 78-0322 when operated by the US Air Force (USAF) – was re-flown from Top Aces’ US F-16 Center of Excellence at Mesa Gateway Airport, Arizona, on May 18. The company confirmed on May 19 that this first aircraft had also achieved Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification.

Top Aces F-16A Block 5 Netz [Joe Copelman]
Top Aces has acquired three single-seat F-16A Block 5s and one two-seat F-16B from the Israeli Air Force so far. This image shows F-16A - registration N854TA '129' - taxiing in at Mesa, Arizona, following its successful first flight on May 18, 2021. Joe Copelman

In order to support its USAF Contracted Air Support indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract, Top Aces took delivery of its first four ex-IAF F-16s in January 2021 – becoming the first private company in the world to own and operate a fourth-generation fighter aircraft. All four examples had left Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel, on board an Antonov Airlines-operated Antonov An-124 Ruslan heavy-lift strategic transport on January 27, arriving at Mesa the following day after an overnight stop in Iceland.

In addition to serial 129 (now N854TA), this initial batch comprised F-16As – serials 220 (c/n 6V-20), formerly known as 78-0327 with the USAF, now registered as N857TA; and 250 (c/n 6V-39), formerly known as 78-0346 in USAF service, which is now allocated N860TA. The fourth and final aircraft of this batch is a two-seat F-16B – serial 017 (c/n 6W-8), formerly known as 78-0362 with the USAF and now registered as N847TA.

All three of the single-seat F-16As had previously been credited with Syrian MiG kills during their tenure with the IAF. Serial 129 was also involved in Operation Opera, the audacious raid on Iran’s Osirak nuclear reactor on June 7, 1981. In total, the Top Aces deal with the Israeli Ministry of Defence’s Defence Export Agency (SIBAT) covers the acquisition of up to 29 F-16A/B Block 5/10s.

To prepare its newly-acquired F-16 fleet for its new contracted adversary air role for the USAF, Top Aces’ open architecture Advanced Aggressor Mission System has been integrated onto the aircraft by the firm’s in-house team. This proprietary system features the latest technologies including an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, an infrared search-and-track (IRST) suite, an advanced datalink and helmet-mounted cueing systems.