The First Privately Owned F-16 Aggressor Jet Has Taken To The Sky

It also marks the first time a private adversary support company has flown a 4th generation fighter of any kind.

F16 top aces first flight
Kyler Noe

In a follow-up to our big piece on Top Aces' recently acquired fleet of second-hand F-16A/B 'Netz' fighters from Israel, the company has now taken one of these jets aloft for the first time. This also marks the first time a 4th generation fighter of any kind has been flown by a private adversary support firm.

The maiden flight originated from Top Aces' newly minted F-16 Center Of Excellence at Mesa Gateway Airport in Arizona. This is where the aggressor firm, which has its main headquarters in Canada, became a truly global operation and is now making a home for its budding F-16 operations. Ultimately, its fleet of Vipers is set to swell to 29 jets.

Kyler Noe

The flight of F-16A 78-0322, which had "Billy Bob" at the controls, lasted roughly an hour and saw the aircraft venture to the west of its home base for a number of checks, before safely returning to Mesa Gateway Airport. The aircraft itself is historic. It took part in Israel's famous attack on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 and is also a MiG killer. You can read more about the jet's history in this past piece of ours on Top Ace's second-hand jets and their unique exploits.

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Top Aces plans to use its private 4th generation fighter fleet to support the Pentagon's growing demand for adversary air support, acting as advanced aggressors for Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps flight crews. Currently, adversary service providers largely use 3rd generation fighters, some of which are deeply upgraded, to mimic more advanced threats at a cheaper cost than using actual 4th generation fighters.

It will be interesting to see Top Aces make its business case for more complex, and potentially far more expensive, private adversary capabilities. Although, the Air Force, in particular, has taken a methodical approach and upgrading the complexity of these services, so adding F-16s to the mix would seem to be a logical next step, at least conceptually speaking. Fiscally speaking, that could be another story.

Kyler Noe

For more information on Top Aces' F-16 fleet, make sure to check out our special feature on the topic here. Beyond that, it looks like they threw a GoPro in the cockpit, so we may get some great video from the company of this historic first flight in the not-to-distant future.

Author's note: A big thanks to Kyler Noe for sharing his wonderful images with us. Be sure to check out his other shots at his Instagram account linked here. Also, a hat tip to @adamjones8350!

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com