The US Air Force posted online an official request for proposals for its Combat Air Force Contracted Air Support programme on 24 August.
The USAF intends to contract 30,000 adversary air sorties annually in the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii, according to the notice. The service also wants aircraft for 10,000 close air support sorties annually in the continental United States to facilitate joint terminal attack controller training.
Adversary air support contracts are likely to be awarded to several aircraft operators given the large-scale needs of the USAF. It has been previously estimated that the total value of the adversary air contract would be worth more than $7.5 billion over ten years.
Private aircraft operators such as Textron’s Airborne Tactical Advantage Company and Draken International are likely bidders for the adversary air contracts having already provided services for previous red flag operations. Both companies have been acquiring and refurbishing dozens of used third and fourth generation fighter aircraft such as the Dassault Mirage F1.
The USAF wants a mix of different aircraft for its fourth and fifth generation pilots to train against. However, all aircraft must have the capability of carrying government electronic countermeasures pods and infrared captive air training missiles, as well as be compatible with arresting systems on an airfield, among other common requirements.
At the higher end of performance, the USAF is looking for aircraft with top speeds of 1.5 Mach, the ability to operate at 50,000ft and radar with a range of 80nm, though mechanical scan or AESA radar type is not prescribed.