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Discovery Air Defence Services; Wittmund, May 15, 2017

Training With the A-4N Skyhawk; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

Discovery Air Defence Services is a Canadian company specializing in providing military air combat training. The company provides different training services for military aviation and is mainly active in Canada and since 2015 in Germany. Discovery Air is using some types of military fighter aircraft for these training sessions.

The Canadian Discovery Air Defence, which was formerly known as Top Aces, was founded in 2000 by three former CF-188 pilots. Originally, the company's focus was on offering aviation advisory services to the Department of National Defense (DND) in Canada. Due to the extensive experience of tactical combat aircraft, the company's three founders subsequently founded a contract for Contracted Airborne Training Services (CATS) in 2005. The Canadian Air Force had commissioned to provide rapid air support which would be provided by a Civilian company for the training of their military fighter pilots. In the past, the air combat training services were provided by the Air Force Combat Support Squadrons with the CC-144 Challenger and CT-133 Silver Star. In 1999, the Canadian government decided to minimize costs based on operationally required aeronautical training. In 2000, the CATS project was launched with the aim of introducing a long-term contract to provide the necessary air combat training to Canadian armed forces by civilian parties. Within a record of only six months, the current Discovery Air Defence received the contract. Discovery Air Defence had already begun their training of pilots on the Alpha-Jet to support the Canadian Army. Currently, Discovery Air Defence is the only party which offers these training services to the Canadian Air Force. In the meantime, the German Air Force has hired the company as well for their training tasks.

Since the acquisition of a number of important CATS contracts, Discovery Air Defence has quickly established an excellent team of pilots, maintenance technicians and support staff. This group of people focuses primarily on the needs of the Canadian Air Force's men and women. Today, Discovery Air Defence is an interesting place to work, as the company is growing fast and is a leader in delivering aviation solutions to the Canadian government. Discovery Air Defence uses a fleet of aircraft to fly a series of missions to support the Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force. The versatility of the

Alpha-Jet, the A-4N Skyhawk and the Westwind, plus the competencies of the pilots, enables the company to provide the required airplane configurations for all Canadian military forces. The most important services the company offers to the Canadian armed forces, are; Close Air Support Training, Radar Profile Training, Airborne Adversary Support, Air Defense Training, Real-time Air Combat Feedback, Land based Attacking and Electronic Warfare Training. All Electronic Warfare missions are performed by highly professional crews which consist of a Discovery Air Defence Pilot and an Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) who is responsible for all pod operations. The EWO has the following pods available, namely; an AN/AST 6 Radar Emission Simulation Set (RESS), an AN/ALQ 167 Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) pod, an AN/ALQ 503 Electronic Warfare Jamming Pod, an AN/ALE 503 Chaff Dispenser and an AST 502 Threat Emissions Simulator (TES).

Discovery Air Defence has a total of four IAI 1124 Westwind aircraft which are equipped for special missions to provide real-time trainings of high quality. The IAI 1124 Westwind is a versatile airplane and can play an important role in large scale exercises. The Westwinds are adapted with suspension points under the wings to support Electronic Warfare missions. Also, the aircraft have an internal winch target. Typical missions which can be flown with the Westwind include Air Defense Missions, Ground Control Intercept Training, Special Air Defense Exercises (SPADEX), Task Force Exercises (TGEX), NORAD Exercises and Surface-to-Air Gunnery above sea. Discovery Air Defence also operates a fleet of sixteen modified Alpha-Jets in the role of air defense training. All Alpha-Jets are upgraded with the state-of-the-art Martin Baker ejection seats and the Dassault Canopy Escape system. The Alpha-Jets are also equipped with a modernized IFR and tactical navigation avionics to ensure aircraft safety and maximum operational flexibility for the customer. The Alpha-Jets are designated to the Canadian Air Force 414 EW Squadron at Ottawa MacDonald Cartier IAP. However, the appliances are usually based on Bagotville and Cold Lake. The Alpha-Jet can be deployed for Joint Tactical Air Controller (JTAC) training, Adversary anti-ship attacks, the aggressor role in large-scale coalition exercises, Air-to-Air Gunnery Target Tow and electronic warfare at sea.

The third type used by Discovery Air Defence is the McDonnell Douglas A-4N Skyhawk. The fleet consists of a dozen customized A-4N and TA-4J Skyhawks in the air defense role. All A-4 Skyhawks have an ESCAPAC 1G-3 pushchair system. The aircraft can be used for training on both low and high flight altitudes at subsonic speeds. The Discovery A4-N Skyhawk can be used for tasks, such as; Joint Tactical Air Controller (JTAC) training, anti-ship missions, the aggressor role, air-to-air targeting, Electronic Warfare Training, radar simulations and night flights. In January 2015, the duration of a five-year contract with Discovery Air Defence began and the A-4 Skyhawks were deployed as aggressors within the German Air Force. The aircraft were stationed at the German air base Wittmund in the north of the country. A number of employees, including former German air force pilots and technicians, started operating at this air base with a total of seven A-4N Skyhawks. The private Canadian company will be employed for the German Luftwaffe in Wittmund until the end of 2019. The aircraft were flown from Mesa in Arizona to the German Wittmund. Discovery Air Defence received the contract at the expense of BAE Systems, which has also provided the German Air Force with target towing and aggressor services since 2001 with the A-4N Skyhawk. The German Luftwaffe saw many advantages in outsourcing this air support. Flight hours with the Eurofighter are far more expensive than hiring Discovery Air Defence services, while the Skyhawks can still offer the same training.




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