Aviation services and technology firm Draken has welcomed a fleet of advanced combat jets to its base at Teesside Airport following the completion of its new hangar.
The new hangar has been constructed to accommodate Draken’s fleet of Alca L-159E “Honey Badger” aircraft. These Czech-built light multi-role combat training aircraft are at the heart of the UK Ministry of Defence’s new Interim Red Air Aggressor Training Service – a contract that will see Draken’s experienced ex-military fighter pilots fly regularly against the RAF over the North Sea as part of the “enemy” fighter force.
Specifically tailored to improve the capability and survivability of the RAF’s Lightning and Typhoon fighter pilots, this is the UK MOD’s first-ever privately contracted training service of its kind.
To support the firm’s expansion, Teesside Airport has recently completed construction of a second state-of-the-art hangar measuring almost 1,500sqm (16,000sq ft) adjacent to Draken’s existing hangar.
Last week, in addition to the four L-159E aircraft already at Teesside, two further “Honey Badgers” flew in from Draken’s Florida base via Greenland to be housed permanently alongside these. Draken also operates five specially modified Dassault Falcon jets on daily training sorties from the airport.
Draken’s fleet expansion will support the delivery of aviation training contracts critical to national defence, with organisations including the UK’s MOD, the US Air Force and numerous NATO member states already benefitting from the firm’s Teesside operations.
The arrival of the new aircraft is expected to create up to 30 jobs, with the company currently looking to fill several roles, with applications open for captains for both its Falcon and L159 aircraft, as well as fitter and service desk analyst roles being advertised at Teesside.
Draken Europe – previously Cobham Aviation – has been located at the airport for more than 25 years and in 2020 signed a long-term deal to continue to operate out of Teesside.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Draken has been a long-standing and valued airport partner for years, and they provide a vital service to the UK. Their work in helping to train and prepare our armed forces so that they are ready to protect our great nation at a moment’s notice is essential. I’m proud that not only are they located at Teesside Airport, but now with this latest move, they are expanding and creating yet more high-quality, well-paid jobs.
“These new arrivals mean the company has now more than doubled its operations, and its new hangar is yet another project that has taken shape this year.
“As we continue to develop the airport site and our £200million business park – on top of working to secure more routes to popular destinations – it won’t be the only company to see future success by being based here.”
Paul Armstrong, CEO at Draken, welcomed the announcement, saying: “A few weeks ago, Draken celebrated its 25th year of flying operations out of Teesside – we’ve always enjoyed fantastic support from the team at the airport and we are delighted that the L-159E “Honey Badger” is now part of Teesside’s success story.
“Our company has been trusted by the UK Government since it was established to deliver advanced training to the RAF and the Royal Navy in the aftermath of the Falklands War. Our aircrew and ground crew take very seriously the nationally significant role they have preparing our military personnel to survive in battle, and they are rightly proud that Teesside is host to this essential new defence capability – especially so at a time when geo-political events bring into sharp relief the need for our armed forces personnel to be trained to the very highest standards.”