Navy has chosen F-5 over F-16 For Latest Commercial Aggressor Contract.
The Government Accountability Office recently announced it had rejected a protest from the Airborne Tactical Advantage Company, or ATAC, over a U.S. Navy multi-million dollar contract award for “red air” aggressors that went to its less established competitor Tactical Air Support, Inc., or TacAir.
The supporting documentation offers extremely interesting insights into the requirements the service had asked of prospective private contractors and the capabilities those firms offered. The information is especially enlightening as the U.S. Air Force is likely taking similar factors into account as they consider bids for their own massive adversary support deal.
Under the contract, worth $118.9 million over the next five years, TacAir will support the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC) and the Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program, better known as Topgun, both of which are located at Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon in Nevada. They will also provide aggressor duties for carrier air wing workups which happen a few times throughout the year. A fleet of at least five modified F-5AT jets will fly a combined total of approximately 1,700 hours annually under the fixed-price deal.
A fuller description of the basic mission set this new force of private aggressors would provide is described as such in the GAO’s documentation:
Pursuant to the PBWS, the awardee was to provide contractor owned, operated, and maintained aircraft for a “wide variety of airborne threat simulation capabilities to train aircraft squadron aircrew and shipboard system operators on how to counter potential enemy advanced airborne threats, tactics, Electronic Warfare (EW), and Electronic Attack (EA) operations.” More specifically, the awardee was to provide “tactically-relevant 4th Generation fighter jets for air-to-air tracking, targeting, and tactical intercept, offensive/defensive counter-air, and air interdiction operations to include associated equipment systems that interface with various platforms and ground force personnel.” Contractor aircraft were to simulate non-western threat aircraft capabilities in an air-to-air environment.
So basically, these aircraft would serve in a similar role as Fallon’s resident fleet adversary support unit, VFC-13, but would be enhanced with, at a minimum, better radars, radar warning receivers, and electronic warfare capabilities.
It’s undoubtedly a major blow to ATAC, the incumbent, which has been supporting those training activities for more than 15 years and has provided more than 50,000 hours of adversary support in the process. TacAir’s bid was also less than half the price of ATAC’s proposal, pointing to a potential cost issue that may become a major factor in future adversary contracts, just as it has been in other high-profile U.S. military purchases as of late.
ATAC’s pitch had centered on providing ex-Jordanian F-16AM Viper fighter jets, which would have much higher performance than TacAir’s upgraded ex-Jordanian F-5s. However, they would also have been far more expensive to operate and less reliable.
Altogether, ATAC had argued that TacAir’s proposal did meet the Navy’s basic performance requirements, it failed to adequately account for the service’s stipulations about radars in the aircraft, did not provide enough planes to begin with, and was unrealistic in terms of the quoted final price for the services. In rejecting each one of these claims, the GAO provided very granular details on TacAir’s winning proposal, many of which are interesting in their own right.
Open link See Full detailed analysis Why F-5s Beat Out F-16s For The Navy’s Latest Commercial Aggressor Contract