Who says you can’t own a fighter jet? The first privately owned F-16 just tore up the skies of Arizona as part of a new defense initiative.
The lightning-fast aircraft in question is the property of Top Aces. The private adversary support firm took delivery of four F-16A/B “Netz” fighters back in January as part of a training contract with the US Air Force. On Wednesday, the first second-hand F-16 earned FAA certification and completed its maiden flight for Top Aces.
The Fighting Falcon, F-16A 78-0322, took off from the firm’s new F-16 Center of Excellence at Mesa Gateway Airport. The jaunt lasted roughly an hour and saw the aircraft carry out a number of checks before landing safely back on the tarmac. This marks a major milestone for the firm and paves the way for more fourth-generation fighters to follow.
The Top Aces fleet, which will eventually comprise 29 Vipers, will be used to provide advanced airborne training to the Air Force, the Navy and the Department of Defense (DoD). Helmed by former fighter pilots, the super-maneuverable F-16s will act as advanced aggressors (the enemy) in tactically challenging scenarios to improve the Air Force’s air-to-air combat.
That shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for the Vipers, though. The F-16 is considered by many to be the most agile fighter aircraft of its generation. These particular jets previously belonged to the Israeli Air Force and have been involved in many combat missions. Since landing on US soil, the highly skilled Top Aces team has restored the fleet to its former fighting glory.
“The entire Top Aces team is very proud to play our part in providing the men and women who operate USAF and USN front line fighters with the most advanced level of training possible,” Russ Quinn, president of Top Aces, said in a statement.
In addition to Top Aces, six other companies have been selected to participate in the DoD’s $6.4 billion Combat Air Force Contracted Air Support contract. This aims to cater to the Pentagon’s growing demand for adversary air support. The contract isn’t due to wrap up until October of 2024.
Get ready to see a few more F-16s flying over the Grand Canyon State, folks.
Check out more photos of the F-16’s maiden flight below: