ARTICLE AVIATION WEEK – April 29, 2021
A newly formed company is planning to offer aggressor training services with Mirage 2000s that it hopes to receive by year’s end.
The used aircraft purchase contract with an undisclosed country is in the final negotiations stages, according to Eric Sarrazin, Ares executive director of development. Ares was created by the merger of Secapem Defense Training Services (SDTS)—which has red air experience with the French Navy—and maintenance specialist Secaero.
Ares’ fleet is predicted to reach four Mirage 2000s by the end of this year and a total of 10 in 2022. Ares will operate an air defense version of the type, Sarrazin confirmed.
Ares is purchasing a total of 18 aircraft, with four fit to fly directly to Ares’ base at Nimes-Garons airport. The other 14 nonflyable Mirages will be delivered in containers. Ares’ team hopes to bring six of those aircraft back to flying status
next year. The remaining eight will be cannibalized for parts. Dassault, Thales and Safran have committed to providing technical and training support.
Ares anticipates significant growth in the red air market in Europe. The U.S. Air Force in Europe, NATO and the European Defense Agency are expected to issue requests for proposals, according to Sarrazin. The French Air and Space Force’s Chief of Staff Gen. Philippe Lavigne recently alluded to such a need for his pilots. “We want to be ready,” Sarrazin said.
New-generation fighters have multitargeting capability, which calls for more aggressors to be involved in the exercise. In the French Air and Space Force’s case, using a Rafale would be overkill, Sarrazin noted. “We will continue to grow. Our ambition is to specialize in the Mirage 2000 type and purchase secondhand aircraft when they arrive on the market.”
SDTS has flown 3,000 hr. in red air operations since 2015, notably 2,000 hr. with a fleet of nine Aermacchi MB-339s as targets for French Navy ships. The main benefit of the Mirage 2000 is seen as the combination of supersonic speeds and a radar. SDTS used to operate A-4N Skyhawks, which had neither capability.