Draken launches Mirage F1M combat training missions

US-based adversary air (ADAIR) contractor, Draken International, has commenced training operations with the US Air Force (USAF), using its ‘new', second-hand Mirage F1M fighters.

The contractor acquired 22 former-Spanish Air Force Mirage F1s in 2018 and has regenerated and modernised the second-hand supersonic, radar-equipped fighters for use in support of US Air Force (USAF) combat readiness training at Nellis Air Force Base (AFB), Nevada.

The aircraft – a mix of single-seat Mirage F1Ms and two-seat F1Bs – are used to challenge US and coalition fourth- and fifth-generation fighters over the Nevada Test and Training Range to further develop tactics, techniques and procedures. In training active service members, the contractor provides ADAIR training for the USAF Weapons School, Red Flag exercises, Combat Air Forces (CAFs) abroad and provides additional support to operational testing and Formal Training Units (FTUs).

Mirage F1M N574EM [Draken International] #1
Draken International

Sean Gustafson, vice president of Business Development at Draken, said: “[The company] is fully committed to enhancing adversary support for the USAF. These fleets of supersonic assets highlight the dedication to fulfilling combat readiness training objectives at Nellis and air force bases across the US. Our ever-growing fleet of advanced fighters enrich our capabilities and challenge airmen, sailors and marines alike.”

This marks the first time that the contractor has operated the regenerated aircraft in training missions with the air arm. The first modernised example – a Mirage F1B – flew on November 12, last year.

In October 2019, the USAF selected several ADAIR contractors – including Draken – to provide its regular CAFs with aggressor and close air support (CAS) training operations in a huge US$6.4bn deal. The contract is expected to run until October 29, 2024.

Draken also operates individual fleets of Denel Aviation Atlas Cheetah C/Ds (which were purchased directly from the South African Air Force in 2017), Aero Vodochody L-159E Honey Badgers, Douglas A/TA-4K Skyhawks, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21bis ‘Fishbeds’ and Aero L-39 Albatros’.