QUINCY -- Air USA, a Quincy-based business at Quincy Regional Airport, learned on Friday that a multi-billion, five-year contract with the U.S. Air Force had been approved for the company to begin providing adversarial training exercises for American fighter pilots.
Air USA, which was started in Quincy in 1994, was one of seven companies named in the contract that was announced last week. The companies will each receive a portion of the $6.4 billion appropriated for the contract.
The local company has a similar training simulation contract with the U.S. Navy.
Air USA offers two different types of training techniques. The first one, known as Red Air, uses modified jets to simulate a real, worst case scenario for the pilots to train against for air combat. The second one, known as Blue Air, trains Forward Air Controllers to demonstrate how they would call in from the ground an air strike using specific coordinates.
"We are kind of like the final exam, so to speak," Air USA President Don Kirlin, who is a military veteran of both the U.S. Navy and the Air Force, said on Wednesday during a tour of the company's two facilities in Quincy. "As a nation, we have fallen behind in the adversarial training exercises, which is the most critical part of being a fighter pilot."
Kirlin said his company fills a unique niche as the American military seeks to overcome a training shortage, while also combating the expense of completing training exercises.
"An F-22 is our most advanced jet and so to have two F-22 flying against another doesn't sound too bad, but both planes are a half-billion asset that cost $60,000 per hour to operate," Kirlin said. "So, each time the military does a training exercise with two F-22 planes, they are burning through a half-billion asset. Plus, in that situation, the Red Air pilot gets no benefit from that experience. As a company, we are replacing the use of a military asset because we can do the training for a fraction of the cost."
Under the terms of the contract announced last week, Air USA officials anticipate providing the military with more than 6,700 training hours of tactical jet fighting using the company's planes.
Air USA's planes are foreign-made jets, which the company purchases overseas and then rebuilds in Quincy using local skilled laborers.
To date, the company has purchased 67 different tactical fighter jets and brought them to Quincy.
Among the company's catalogue of plans are four MiG 29, which Kirlin says are the greatest threat American fighter pilots would face in the sky if flown by an enemy.
Air USA uses their MiG jets to present a "real, worst case scenario for the pilots" according to Kirlin. Some of the company's planes have been retrofitted to have the capability to jam, or block, an American fighter pilot's radar for up to 80 miles.
"It would really be a handful for any American fighter pilot to go up against," Kirlin said. According to Air & Space Magazine, 23 different nations are known to have MiG aircraft in their nation's aerial arsenal. An additional 10 nations are suspected of having the aircraft but have not disclosed that information.
Among the foreign countries known to have an MiG are Algeria, North Korea, Syria, Serbia, Russia, Poland, Iran, Cuba, and several former Soviet republics.
Kirlin said the company is in the final stages of negotiating the purchase of "a significant number of planes" from another overseas. The acquisition of the planes is expected to be wrapped up by the end of the year.
"With this new contract, everything is very high gear across the board," Kirlin said. As such, the company president said they will likely go on a hiring spree in Quincy as they look to grow their number of employees in the Gem City from the current six full-time to 20 full-time employees by the end of next year.
"We are looking to hire a large group of very talented individuals," Kirlin said.
Air USA officials say previous experience of working in aviation or on aircraft is required. Steve Phillips, who works as the company's maintenance director and facility security officer, said the company is looking for skilled laborers who have experience as mechanics, in fabrication, engine repair, metal bending, engineering, and similar areas of expertise. The company said they will train employees for their new positions.
Those interested in applying for a position within the company are encouraged to send their resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
These positions will work from Quincy Regional Airport.