RAF Debuts an Advanced Training Service for Fighter Pilots, a First in the UK

Draken's Honey Badger is the new mock enemy for RAF fighter pilot training 6 photos
Photo: Royal Air Force
Draken's AircraftRAF Debuts IRAATSRAF Debuts IRAATSDraken's AircraftDraken's Aircraft
Many folks believe that you should choose your friends carefully, because they end up defining who you are. In the case of fighter jets, they need to also apply that to mock enemies – only the fiercest ones will help them sharpen their combat skills.

Fighter jet pilots can’t play on their own. We’ve talked before about highly-realistic training environments and how this trend is becoming increasingly important for armed forces everywhere. Whether it’s a ship, a jet, or an anti-missile system, top-level military assets need so-called “mock” enemies that are on the same level.

For the Royal Air Force (RAF)’s Typhoons, it used to be the Hawk T1. The old training aircraft would also serve as what is officially known as “simulated airborne threat.” But last year it was time for it to retire, so a new “enemy” had to take over.

In the Spring of this year, RAF announced a three-year contract (plus the possibility of a further three years) with the European branch of Draken, a reputable U.S.-based provider of tactical fighter aircraft for this particular purpose. As a result, Draken’s L-159E Honey Badger took the place of the Hawk T1.

Mock enemies for fighter jets are supposed to be able to replicate the tactics and techniques of potential adversaries. To do that, the L-159E brings on better capabilities compared to the old Hawk, both in terms of performance (increased endurance) and technical assets (it’s fitted with an air-to-air radar and a radar warning receiver). Plus, it’s operated by ex-military fast jet pilots, according to the Civil Aviation Authority regulations.

The contract marked the birth of the IRAATS (Interim Red Air Aggressor Training Service) that recently delivered its first training sortie. The Honey Badger came out for some rough play with a Typhoon from the 41 Test and Evaluation Squadron, over the North Sea.

IRAATS is the first of its kind in the UK, and the contract with Draken for medium-to-fast air capability is a premiere for the country.

The Honey Badger’s official name is Aero Vodochody L-159Es, a light multi-role aircraft made in the Czech Republic. Among other features, it sports a multi-mode radar for any weather and both day or night operations, plus air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles.

The Red Air Aggressor service will gradually reach full operations capability, starting January 2023, when eight Honey Badgers are set to kick off operations.

Draken operates a similar service for the American armed forces, but this capability is proving to be even more important in the geopolitical space of Europe, given the events that have dramatically changed things over this past year. RAF’s Typhoon and Lightning now have a new training partner that will make sure they bring their A-game.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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