Far from the flat tablelands of their native Botswana, a group of fighter pilots from the southern African nation’s Defence Force have completed their initial F-5 refresher and flight instructor training in the airspace around the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains close to the Reno-Stead airport in Nevada. The class, which included four pilots and two instructors, trained on upgraded ex-Canadian CF-5s similar to the fleet of sister CF-5s flown by the Botswana Defence force (BDF). The aircraft are operated by Tactical Air Support, a company consisting of former weapons school (USN/USMC/USAF) instructors that provide flight and technical support to the U.S. military and its allies. The BDF pilots each received 26 hours of ground school and completed nine training flights in the fleet of CF-5s over a five week period. The training was also supported by the Nevada National Guard.
Tactical Air Support's unique commercially operated Super Tucano (David Leininger/Tactical Air Support)
Formed in 2005, Tactical Air Support is an unusual organization with what appears to be a promising future. The company’s fleet of F-5, EMB 312 and 314 Super Tucano, L-39, and SF-260TP is finding increasing employment as the squeeze on domestic and international defense budgets continues. Tactical Air, which is the only commercial operator currently flying the Super Tucano, was also the first non-government company outside of Sukhoi trained to fly, operate and maintain the Su-27. As well as air operations, Tactical Air also provides consultancy on tactics development and other military training aspects. The company also flies single engine Mooney and Cirrus light aircraft as chase support for UAV testing in and around restricted airspace around Edwards AFB, Calif, and with the Super Tucano and SF-260TP has been assisting with Special Forces training in North Carolina. Tactical Air will also send additional instructors to Botswana for the next phase of training which the company says will be “focused on developing a core group of BDF tactics instructors.”