Draken International – ‘Supersonic Kickoff’ Event

Former Spanish Air Force Dassault Mirage F.1M fighters like these will soon be joining Draken International's Commercial Adversary Air Fleet. (image via Draken International)

Draken International, a Lakeland, Florida-based Commercial Adversary Air company, hosted a “Supersonic Kickoff Party” event in their Lakeland facilities on Friday during the annual Sun ‘n Fun airshow. John Baum, Vice President for Strategic Projects, came up with the name based on the fact that Draken’s newest aircraft, the Atlas Cheetah and the Mirage F-1M, can fly at speeds far in excess of Mach 1. Baum said this new supersonic capability from Draken creates an even more challenging scenario for U.S. military pilots. Nearly a hundred local political, civic and business leaders attended the event and some made comments during the ceremony about the importance of supporting the Central Florida company as they strive to provide unparalleled training capabilities for the U.S. military.

Draken is looking forwards to adding a sizable number of former Spanish Air Force supersonic Dassault Mirage F.1M fighters to their fleet in the near future. Alongside these aircraft will be a dozen Atlas Cheetahs, a South Aftican adaptation of the Israeli-modified Mirage III design. (image via Draken International)

Polk County Commissioner Todd Dantzler, Chair of the Board of County Commissioners, said this about Draken: “We’re fortunate to have a company like Draken International right here in Polk County.  Draken is the leader in the Commercial Adversary Air market and regularly trains the U.S. Military across the United States.  They also assist our best allies in Europe.  Their fleet of over one hundred aircraft are the most advanced radar-equipped fighters commercially available anywhere in the world, and the newest additions – the Mirage F-1M and the Atlas Cheetah Cs – are supersonic, making them even more capable adversaries for U.S. pilots to train against.  We’re also pleased to hear about Draken’s partnership with Florida Polytechnic University and pledge our support to that team as they help our Military remain the best in the world”

The Atlas Cheetah is based upon an Israeli-modified version of the Dassault Mirage III. Draken International has acquired a dozen Cheetahs for their Commercial Adversary Air fleet. The Cheetah is of similar vintage and shares some commonality with the Mirage F.1M, such as the powerplant. (image via Draken International)

Retired US Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas P. Stafford provided the keynote speech during the event, emphasizing the importance of Commercial Adversary Air support for the Pentagon and also the role that Polk County will play in this regard. General Stafford was the commander of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project flight, the first joint U.S.-Soviet space mission. Stafford was a Brigadier General at the time of the mission, becoming the first general officer to fly in space, as well as the first member of his Naval Academy class to pin on the first, second, and third stars of a general officer. He made six rendezvous in space and logged 507 hours of space flight in three different types of spacecraft. He has also flown over 120 different types of fixed wing and rotary aircraft.

Astronaut and USAF General Tom Stafford (l) pictured here with Wally Schirra (r), his fellow crew member from the Gemini 6A flight just prior to their mission which docked in orbit with the Agena rocket in October, 1965. Stafford flew three further missions in space, on Gemini 9 in June 1966, Apollo 10 in May 1969 and Apollo-Soyuz in July, 1975. Uniquely, for that time period, all four of Stafford’s spaceflight missions involved docking with another space vehicle! (image via NASA)

Jared Isaacman, CEO of Draken International, emphasized another important aspect of the “Supersonic” event when he mentioned that his company is forming a partnership with Florida Polytechnic University who will offer support in two specific areas of high-tech applied research – improving Draken’s global supply-chain logistics and modernizing their fleet of aircraft including fighters from the US, New Zealand, Czech Republic and soon South Africa and Spain. According to Isaacman, ‘Draken’s aircraft are the most advanced fighters commercially available and modernizing this fleet of jet aircraft to increasingly challenge 4th and 5th generation U.S. fighters will prove to be a worthwhile task … along with Florida Polytechnic University’s assistance, Draken will offer unprecedented adversary air training capacity and capabilities at significantly lower costs to the American taxpayer’. He went on to say that ‘this kind of innovative thinking goes on every day at Draken, and Florida Polytechnic University’s faculty and students will provide even more credibility and creativity to this effort’. The new supersonic aircraft will start arriving at Lakeland Linder airport around May of this year and will likely start flying acceptance sorties this summer. Once the aircraft are certified for flight by the FAA, Draken’s pilots will likely move them out west to their main flying operations in the Nevada Test and Training Range north of Las Vegas.

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