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  • Mike Lintott-Danks

Exclusive Interview: Top Aces and the F-16

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

Airspeed media had the opportunity to speak to Top Aces Corp. President Russ Quinn to discuss the recent awarding of the IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity) for U.S. Air Forces Combat Air Force Contracted Air Support and the introduction of Top Aces latest asset, the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon.


Press release from Top Aces,

“Mesa, October 25, 2019-Top Aces Corp. is pleased to announce that it has been selected as a winner under the U.S. Air Force Combat Air Force Contracted Air Support contract. This contract provides a vehicle through which Top Aces can offer it’s highly advanced adversary air capabilities and compete for individual tenders at twelve U.S. Air Force (USAF) bases. Top Aces Corp. will be the first provider to offer the F-16 platform, configured with a unique open system architecture designed to meet the diverse needs of the USAF customer. Top Aces’ fleet will initially be based at the F-16 Center of Excellence located in Mesa, Arizona.”


Interview


When will the F16 be in service?

In a sense it is already in service as these are flyable aeroplanes, which is the sale agreement that Top Aces have with the provider. This means these aircraft will be in service within 6 months and will be based at the F-16 Center of Excellence at Mesa, Arizona.

The F-16s were purchased under a Third-Party Transfer process through the U.S. State Department. This process can be found https://www.state.gov/third-party-transfer-process-and-documentation/ Top Aces are in the final stages of that approval.


Are Top Aces completing any modifications to the F-16?

Top Aces will need to put ADSB into the aircraft for them to be able to fly in U.S. air space and we will also fit the AAMS (Advanced Aggressor Mission System).

AAMS is an open architecture system that is a federated system from the rest of the aeroplane. Each of the aircraft flown by Top Aces has a disciplined air worthiness capability and requirement, the systems that keep the aircraft safe, and it’s important that the AAMS is separated from those.

Top Aces is utilised as a training company the forces of the future and the AAMS allows Top Aces the flexibility to put additionally capability on the aircraft in accordance with the customers’ requirements. E.g. advanced radar, infrared search and track system or a link system, HMCS (Helmet Mounted Cuing System), can all be added to the aircraft.


How many F-16s will Top Aces procure? Will others be purchased for spare parts?

Top Aces will have 29 F-16s in total with a mixture of both single seat and two seat variants, offering more flexibility in training for the U.S. Air Force.

Top Aces have a very robust spare parts purchase. The good news is that the F-16 is still being flown by many air forces around the globe and this has created a very mature parts network which Top Aces will utilise. Top Aces feel very good about their logistics solution relating to initial provisioning and being able to keep the sortie rate high for the customer.


Have Top Aces already employed pilots and maintainers for the F16?

As a continuation of the training Top Aces already provides to its customers, a highly skilled work force of maintenance personnel are in place within Top Aces working on all aspects of the F-16. Some of the maintainers employed have well over 20 years working with the F-16 and the majority of pilots have 1000s of hours on this platform allowing Top Aces to further provide high quality training.

The aggressor mission overall is a very different mission where the crews need to be selfless and act as teachers for the military pilots. The crews that have been employed by Top Aces embrace that aggressor mission, which allows the military pilots to learn from each training flight. This changes through the course of the training with the aggressor crews providing more and more challenges to the force they are working with. This has meant that the pilots that Top Aces have employed have that mindset not to win but train others to win that aerial battle.


Will the F-16 work in conjunction with the other Top Aces assets in the U.S?

Top Aces would be very interested in utilising their other assets in the U.S., but this could be further into the future, as the focus at this time is on the F-16 and fulfilling the IDIQ.


Will Top Aces be looking to provide the F-16s 4th generation level of training to the countries, Germany, Canada and Australia, that they work with now?

From a business prospective this would be a great avenue for Top Aces to pursue, but the third-party transfer could be an issue due to restrictions on how Top Aces could employ the F-16. The State department could say that Top Aces use of the F-16 is to train Department of Defence forces but this then could not allow the F-16 to be used outside of the US.

With the expense of flying the 5th generation platforms there is a real opportunity to have 4th generation aircraft available, by a company such as Top Aces, to provide vital high-end training whilst being very economical as well. Top Aces prove to have a great solution for the U.S. forces by having a 4th generation platform working in tandem with the Advanced Aggressor Mission System.


Top Aces work across the world providing high-end adversary training. A brief overview is below, and more information can be found on the Top Aces website https://topaces.com/

· Top Aces two year trial with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has now been completed and there has been very positive feedback from the RAAF with regards to the level of training and Top Aces professionalism.

· The Contracted Airborne Training Services (Canada) contract was won by Top Aces and runs over 10 years and is the foundation of the company and this has been great to have the Royal Canadian Air Force continue to work closely with Top Aces.

· Having worked with the Luftwaffe since 2015 providing adversary training, Top Aces are re-competing for a 5-year contract and will be offering the potential of a higher capability than is already provided.

Top Aces Corp. President Russ Quinn


‘Russ joined Top Aces in 2018 as Chief Commercial Officer and is responsible for leading a focused team of professionals spearheading domestic and international business growth. An experienced military, diplomatic and business development leader, his background includes a unique combination of tactical aviation, US domestic and international business development and State Department experience.

Russ completed a distinguished 26-year United States Air Force career in 2011. During his service, he held both operational and test command positions in the US and Europe, served on the Pacific Air Forces staff developing safety and training policies and served as the Deputy Group Commander for the Adversary Tactics Group where he employed the F-16 in the Aggressor role. He also flew as the Lead and Opposing Solo Pilot for the USAF Aerial Demonstration Squadron, Thunderbirds during the 1995 and 1996 air show seasons. He brings over 3300 F-16 flight hours to the Top Aces team.

Prior to joining Top Aces, Russ served in business development roles of increasing responsibility including as Vice President, Air Force Business Development for the L3 Technologies Communication Systems Segment.

A graduate of the US Air Force Academy Class of 1985, he holds a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Behaviour, a Master’s of Aeronautical Science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and a Master of Arts in Strategic Studies from Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.’

Information from https://topaces.com/


Thank you to Russ Quinn, Rachel Andrews and Olivia Hosch for arranging this interview.


Airspeed Media look forward to working with Top Aces in the future.

All images provided by Top Aces

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About the editor

Michael Lintott-Danks has worked in forestry for two decades but the passion for aviation has always been high. Photography has now given Michael the opportunity to get closer to the action and he has worked with many air forces close to home and further afield.  

 

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