NATO's ability to conduct multi-national combat training could be transformed if a 24-aircraft system being proposed by a Dutch-based company takes off.
The integrated opposing force (IOPFOR) concept now being promoted by ECA Program would see a new fleet of privately-owned and operated lightweight fighters provide an aggressor training service for Alliance nations.
Platform candidates include the Chengdu J-10, RSK MiG-35 and Saab Gripen, with ECA chief executive and IOPFOR manager Melville ten Cate expecting to announce a selection in mid-May.
© RSK MiG
Russia's MiG-35 is one design being considered to equip the privately-funded fleet
The Schiphol-based company has raised €283 million ($375 million) to support the programme via an asset-backed convertible bond, which was offered from 2-30 April. While this was short of the sought-for total of €430 million, intended to support the purchase of an initial 14 aircraft, ten Cate says "we consider it a success".
"We remain committed to the 14 aircraft, and from a funding perspective we have more than we need for now," he adds.
ECA has previously detailed its plans to acquire a fleet of aircraft equipped with "fifth-generation" characteristics, such as an active electronically scanned array radar, infrared search and track sensors, electronic warfare equipment and supercruise flight performance.
Beyond providing aircraft to exercise against, the IOPFOR model also will include naval vessels, data links, a command and control function and access to commercial satellite imagery, plus further simulated forces.
ECA will support a three-week demonstration and evaluation exercise for NATO and allied air forces over the North Atlantic early next year, which ten Cate says will enable the company to showcase its operating concept in a "no holds barred" scenario. "People don't buy Powerpoint," he notes.