Discovery Air Defence eyes surplus Vipers
Canadian firm Discovery Air Defence Services flies around two dozen ex-Israeli A-4N Skyhawk fighters and former German Alpha Jet trainers to support the U.S., Canadian and German militaries. The old jets tow aerial targets, conduct radar-jamming during war games and play the role of enemy fighters during mock air-to-air combat.
Several other companies do similar work, some with A-4s of their own. But according to Rich Cooper, writing in Combat Aircraft, Discovery could be the first “adversary” company to upgrade to much more modern, and more capable, F-16s.
For one reason — the arrival of the F-35 stealth fighter, which demands a better sparring partner. “With the advent of the F-35, military training will have to step up,” Cooper writes.
Discovery is eyeing four single-seat F-16As and two twin-seat F-16Bs, according to Cooper. He describes the source of the Vipers as “undisclosed,” but other firms have reportedly inspected Israeli F-16s and the Jewish state is probably Discovery’s seller, too.
Whereas the A-4 is subsonic and has no radar, the F-16 is supersonic and boasts a reasonably modern APG-66 radar. A Viper is more expensive to fly than an A-4 is, but still much, much cheaper than an F-35 is.
But there’s a problem. The F-16 is of American origin. Garrick Ngai, Discovery’s marketing director, told Cooper that the company’s hoped-for acquisition depends on U.S. State Department approval.
But Ngai is optimistic. “In the near future, when we get our supersonic fighters, we will step it up again as a civilian company offering this kind of training.”