USAF Pilots To Battle F-16s In Mock Combat


The Air Force’s frontline fighter pilots will go up against a formidable, albeit familiar, adversary in mock combat missions with the signoff on Top Aces’ fleet of modified F-16s for Red Air operations. The Air Force granted Top Aces, which was founded by ex-Canadian fighter pilots, Military Flight Release for the fleet of Vipers the company bought from the Israeli air force when they were retired for the incoming F-35. The company has added a proprietary software package it calls the Advanced Aggressor Mission System that allows the fighter to punch above its already considerable weight to tangle with the latest and greatest in the USAF inventory.

“To provide effective training to pilots flying fifth-generation fighters—such as the F-22 or F-35—we must match the capabilities of near-peer adversary fighter aircraft,” said Russ Quinn, president of Top Aces and a 26-year USAF veteran and former aggressor pilot. “By combining the power and avionics of the F-16 with AAMS, we can replicate contemporary adversary threats with accuracy and cost-efficiency.” Top Aces owns the world’s only privately operated F-16s, which are still in service with dozens of air forces including USAF.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. During my 15 1/2 years in service at Edwards AFB, I was associated with the F-16 four different times. I’ve had the privilege of flying in them, too. I think the F-16 is one of the few airplanes that not only met its original design objectives but greatly exceeded them. For what they cost vs. the current front line fighters, the USAF, et al, got their money’s worth. Nice to see that some of them will fly on one more time. Also, they’re now being turned into drones as QF-16’s, sadly.

    Not widely known, during what was known as the “Lightweight Fighter (LWF)” flyoff in 1974, the Northrop entrant — the F-17 — that didn’t win the competition (IMHO correctly) went on to be resurrected as the F-18 Hornet for the Navy. So BOTH entrants into that fly off competition nearly 50 years ago were ultimately successful.

    • OH … I forgot some of the NUMEROUS variants of the airplane that were tested. The Grumman X-29A was basically an F-16 with forward swept wings. The F-16XL was a ‘cranked arrow’ (much larger) wing that could carry all manner of weapons. And the NF-16 “Vista” is a variable stability demonstrator airplane that replaced the CALSPAN NF-33 which flew for 50 years in support of the US test pilot schools, et al. There were others: