Red Air For Hire: The big business of private air forces

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Unread post28 Nov 2015, 02:30

Red Air For Hire: The big business of private air forces
Nov 27th 2015 at 3:02PM

America is home to three military air forces including the United States Air Force (USAF), United States Naval Air Forces (USN, USMC), and United States Army Aviation (USA). With roots stretching back to the early 20th century, these air arms are well understood by most Americans.

But there are a growing number of private air forces in the US and Canada which Americans are overwhelmingly unaware of. Composed of retired military fighter and training aircraft, operated by ex-military pilots, these company-owned fleets provide a surprising range of airborne training services to the US armed forces. Quietly, they've been a feature of American military aviation for more than three decades, increasingly integrated but still on the fringe, a contracting force not spoken of freely or often by the Department of Defense (DoD).

Business is about to pick up, however. According to the executives who lead the companies in this unique industry, the contract air services (CAS) trade is at a tipping point. "If there was ever a question about the future of the industry, it has been answered," says Jared Isaacman, CEO of the Florida-based Draken International. "It's not just a Navy thing anymore. The Air Force, the Marines, the Army – they're all going to use it and NATO allies are going to use it. We're past the question mark."

This assertion is based on snowballing economic and operational challenges facing the US military. Since the end of the Cold War, America's fleet of tactical aircraft has diminished considerably. Cutbacks hit the special adversary squadrons which once acted as "bad guy" training partners for active USAF, USN, USMC, and USA units especially hard. Most were disbanded....

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