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KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — The skies above Southern Oregon will soon be host to strange 'enemy' aircraft, according to a statement from the 173rd Fighter Wing out of Kingsley Field.
"You will see some distinctly different jets flying over Klamath Falls over the next few months," said Colonel Jeff Smith, the 173rd Fighter Wing commander. "These Adversary Air (ADAIR) aircraft, pilots, and maintenance personnel are contracted by the U.S. Air Force to help us increase our training quality and student throughput."
These foreign aircraft are examples of the L-159E "Honey Badger"—an attack jet produced by Czech aerospace corporation Aero Vodochody. The Honey Badger has seen use throughout the world since its rollout in the year 2000, including in the post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi airforce.
More to the point, the Honey Badger is a favorite of a U.S.-based civilian contractor corporation called Draken International, which frequently pairs with the U.S. military for training.
According to the 173rd Fighter Wing, pilots-in-training have typically had to pit their F-15 Eagle fighters against trainers in the same aircraft—tying up as many as four F-15s at a time to train one student pilot. But with the new Honey Badger squadron inbound, instructors will be able to focus on getting their students in the air.
First flights with the Honey Badgers were scheduled to begin earlier this week, on June 5. However, these flights represent a 'dry run,' so to speak—with permanent integration planned for sometime in 2019. The initial visit will allow 173rd officers and contractor representatives to work out any kinks with the proposed start date, according to the statement.
"We're excited to welcome them temporarily in June and July and more permanently starting in 2019," Col. Smith said.