On July 5th, the first of 22 former Spanish Air Force Dassault Mirage F1M combat aircraft arrived at Draken International’s primary maintenance facility in Lakeland, Florida. As WarbirdsNews readers will remember, Draken purchased the fleet back in November, 2017. The type will become the backbone of the company’s advanced, radar-equipped, supersonic aggressor fleet, alongside a dozen ex-South African Air Force Atlas Cheetahs (derived from the Dassault Mirage III) which Draken purchased in December 2017 (see press release). As the demand for increased capacity of adversary resources continues to soar, both domestically and overseas, Draken’s new Mirage and Cheetah jets will provide the USAF, USN, and USMC with an advanced radar-equipped supersonic platform which their pilots can fly against in real-world, combat training scenarios.
The Mirage F1s and Cheetahs are both agile fighter types, but they are also capable of speeds above Mach2 and field modern radars, giving them similar capabilities to a range of fourth-generation combat aircraft used by potential enemy forces. The operational costs for employing the F1M and Cheetah in adversarial combat training come at a fraction of the price of using currently-serving military aircraft in the role, while also preserving the airframe hours of those same national assets, making the jets a natural choice for both Draken and their clients.
Draken International’s fleet of Mirage F1Ms had already undergone modernization schedules for the Spanish Air Force, and they are prepared to employ all 22 of them on various contracts with the US Department of Defense, to include the US Navy and Marine Corps, as well as numerous coalition forces. As the sole provider of commercial adversary services to the United States Air Force, Draken International is primed to deliver extensive capacity covering the majority of the service’s 42,000 flight hour requirement supporting combat readiness training at 12 operating locations throughout the US. Just this June, the DoD awarded Draken a US$280 million contract to provide adversary air services at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada through December 2023. Click HERE for the full article.
Now that the procurement phase is complete, the Mirage F1Ms will be arriving at Draken’s primary maintenance facility in Lakeland, Florida for their return to operational condition. Personnel from the South African defense contractor Paramount Aerospace will be assisting with the overhaul and return to airworthiness of the combat jets. During this process the aircraft will also receive upgrades which will include new avionics and wiring so they can wield a variety of additional equipment, such as electronic warfare pods. Draken selected Paramount Aerospace for this work because the company has extensive experience with the type, with full airframe and engine overhaul capabilities. Indeed the company lead the prior modernization process for these same Mirages while they were still serving in the Spanish Air Force. In a recent press release, Jared Isaacman, CEO of Draken International stated, “We are looking forward to working with one of the few companies in the world that possesses the extensive depth of F1 experience and knowledge that Paramount brings to the table. We are especially confident given Paramount’s experience modernizing the same Mirage F1M jets we now own when they were in prior Spanish Air Force service.”
WarbirdsNews wishes to thank General ‘Jake’ Polumbo for the images provided for this article.