Dutchman Melville ten Cate and his company ECA Program want to convert a former US air force base in Iceland to a training ground where Western air forces can simulate dogfights with Russian jets.
ECA Program believes it has discovered a gap in the market because air forces would be able to go up against real ‘enemy’ jets instead of using their own planes or computer simulation programmes. At present, only the US has Sukhoi jet fighters (2) for training purposes.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Ten Cate says he has reached agreement with a company in Belarus on the purchase of 15 Sukhoi SU-27 jet fighters. The 1.2-billion-euro deal also includes an option on a further 18 jets and ground radars.
The planes will not be armed. According to Mr Ten Cate, “We couldn’t even bring down a pigeon unless it flew into the engine”.
The Icelandic transport ministry has approved his plans, but Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir says she wants to consult her country’s allies before granting her final approval.
In the meantime, ECA Program is continuing its search for ground personnel and 45 pilots.