Have you ever wanted your own private air force, readers? Don Kirlin not only wanted one, he built it from the ground up. His company, Air USA, provides adversary air support for the United States’ military. Adversary air support is provided by private companies that fly planes to act as the “bad guys” in war games for military pilots.
These pilots “attack” our men, who respond in kind (without actually shooting down their opponents, obviously). This has become a burgeoning market for military contractors, with several new companies entering the arena to offer their planes and pilots as the “adversaries” in these war games. Air USA is older than most of these other companies, but they are perhaps one of the most nimble businesses in the pack.
Earlier this year they purchased forty-six – yes, 46 – F/A-18 Hornets from the Australian government. Thirty-six of these aircraft are ready and raring to go, while ten needed an inspection before they could be taken on their first flight. The piece contains a great deal of information on not only this purchase, but Air USA and the adversary air support market in general.
Not everyone can buy his own personal air force, of course, but stories such as Mr. Kirlin’s remain inspirational nonetheless. After all, if he can do it, who is to say others cannot follow in his footsteps? Who says we cannot reach for the sky, when this man has not only striven for it but achieved his goal?
Click the link to learn more about Air USA and its amazing owner, readers!
This Man Owns The World’s Most Advanced Private Air Force After Buying 46 F/A-18 Hornets
We talked to the owner of Air USA about probably the most incredible private aircraft purchase of all time and the future of his adversary business.
APRIL 9, 2020
For the last 30 years, Don Kirlin has been flying for the airlines, working on real estate deals, setting up the world’s biggest skydiving meets, and building a private air force the likes of which even he has a hard time believing is possible. Just last month, The War Zone was among the first to report that his company would be purchasing multiple squadrons worth of surplus Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F/A-18 Hornets to be used in the contractor adversary air support role here in the United States. Not only do we have all the details on that purchase, which is even more impressive than it initially seemed, but we talked at length with the entrepreneur owner of Air USA, located in Quincy, Illinois, about his company’s past and what is turning into a remarkable, if not downright historic, future.
Don Kirlin imported his first foreign military jet, and L-39 Albatross, in 1994, at a time when doing so was an extremely complex and convoluted affair full of pitfalls and unknowns. Since then, he has repeated the process dozens of times over and was the first owner of a private MiG-29 Fulcrum in the United States, among a long list of other exotic flying firsts. He now holds eight licenses with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), allowing him to own military machine guns and cannons, as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition to fire through them.
He was also one of the early pioneers of the then-fledgling, if not wholly experimental, adversary air support market. In the early 2000s, he joined forces with the Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC), which was blazing a trail with their contracts with the Navy to supply fast jet targets and electronic warfare pod toting adversaries that mimic everything from enemy cruise missiles to fighters for Navy and Marine fighter aircraft and Navy surface combatants to train against.
During those early years, Air USA worked as a subcontractor for ATAC, flying the vast majority of the contracted subsonic adversary support flight hours. So, Kirlin and his company’s experience in what is now an exploding adversary support marketplace dates back to its very genesis.