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Dawn of the Red Sky

Posted 13 March 2020 · Add Comment

Major ideology differences with Iran, simmering tension with Turkey in Libya, ongoing war in Yemen, disagreements between Qatar and other GCC members, and the ongoing fight against terrorism, means tension is never far away in the MENA region. Now a new private consortium is stepping into the pilot combat training arena. Alan Warnes reports.

With so many air forces in the region purchasing new fighters, it is not surprising that a consortium of businessmen, based in the UAE, is set to field a new adversary training service aimed primarily at GCC countries.
Known as Red Sky, the consortium will teach students the skills to fight in today’s aerial environment.
The ultimate aim is a specialised, local and independent electronic warfare capability that matches evolving, real-world air-to-air threats.
Xavier Janny, of UAE-based Main Arrow, is working alongside E-Systems Solutions CEO, Habib Boukharouba, in conjunction with South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The latter will provide the scientific electronic warfare knowledge, as well as its vast test facilities.
France’s Diginext will also be part of the set-up, to provide the live virtual constructive (LVC) distributed training mission, by connecting tactical data-linked platforms and computer-generated forces. The Aix en Provence-based company is already working with the French armed services.
The consortium’s goal has meant a major outlay in capital to buy a set of aircraft that will provide the required air combat training.
A fleet of nine ex-Brazilian Air Force Mirage 2000C/D RDIs has been purchased, which the company will bring to Europe for overhaul before getting them in the air within the next 18 months. They are expected to be working alongside 12 BAE Systems Hawks that are believed to be coming from Jordan.
The Royal Jordanian Air Force recently put its former UAE jets up for sale after they were deemed too expensive to operate. They have been replaced by a fleet of Grob G 120TPs.
To top it all off, Red Sky is set to acquire 12 transonic drones as it sets up a new ground-breaking manned-unmanned air combat training business.
E-Systems Solutions and CSIR worked together in 2017 to develop the Inundo electronic warfare (EW) pod and fifth-generation net-centric digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) jammer.
The Inundo EW system can be used as a modern platform for test, evaluation and training applications – in air-to-air and air-to-surface environments. It has proven its compatibility on the Hawk, Cheetah and Hawker Hunter, and will feature in Red Sky’s concept of operations.
The pod’s similarity to the BL-755 store makes Inundo usable to many air operators around the world. The functionality of its various systems, including its electronic warfare payload, has been tested rigorously in various operational flight profiles, including simulating anti-ship missile detection at high speeds and very low altitudes.
By utilising the pod with a CSIR-developed ram air turbine, operating with power from the aircraft’s air stream, it is not drawing on the power supply of the host aircraft.
E-System Solutions’ contribution to Red Air has evolved through modern day air-to-air threats, such as instrumented operational electronic warfare pods, as well as operational captive missiles, which will form part of the capability.
Boukharouba said: “Our training solution will cover the full spectrum of combat operations up to the anti-access aerial-denial (A2AD) arena. As part of a phased training approach, we will also introduce highly manoeuvrable transonic drones.”
His company is responsible for the payload and mission integration of air-launched transonic drones (ALTD), and the DRFM jammer.
While Boukharouba would disclose few details of the drones, he did say they are in the process of being modified in South Africa, allowing them to be air-launched from the Hawks.
The 1980s-built jet trainers will carry two drones that can manoeuvre like a fighter up to 9G when released.
Bhoukarouba continued: “They are much cheaper to operate than aircraft and, when you put a number in the air, will make a good surrogate. We will be placing a bigger emphasis on the use of manned fighter and unmanned drones combined to LVC in the different complex training scenarios. It should work well.”
Red Sky expects most of the Mirage 2000s will be airworthy by the end of 2020 and Boukharouba is very excited by the project: “With their fourth generation pulse Doppler RDI radars and new tactical data link they will make a phenomenal aggressor aircraft.”

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