Tuesday, October 17, 2017
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Paramount acquires four Mirage F1s to boost pilot training offering

A French Air Force Mirage F1B.Paramount Group has announced it has acquired four ex-French Air Force Mirage F1B aircraft from the French government and will use them to enhance its pilot training capabilities.

The company on 5 October said its subsidiary Paramount Aerospace Systems would use the twin-seat aircraft as part of its pilot and maintenance technician training services.

“The new acquisition of the Mirage F1 aircraft will inject additional ‘top gun’ capability into Paramount Group’s advanced pilot training programmes,” said Brian Greyling, CEO of Paramount Aerospace Systems. “One of the most important trends in today’s military aviation market is the increasing utilisation of legacy aircraft for adversary training by air forces. Paramount Aerospace Systems is now recognised as the only privately-owned aerospace company in the world that is capable of offering military type aircraft training from ab initio to supersonic fighter capability.”

France’s L’Echo Republicain reported last month that Paramount acquired the four Mirage F1Bs in June through Paris-based consulting firm Eurotradia International for around two million euros. They were transported out of France at the end of August after five Paramount employees spent two weeks preparing the aircraft for transport. The wings were removed and fuel drained ahead of the move.

The Mirage F1s were stored with Entrepôt de l’Armée de l’Air 601 at Base Aérienne 279 Châteaudun. They were the last available for sale that were in good condition after the type was retired in 2014. In July this year, France sold 63 Mirage F1s to Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) in the United States, which is now part of Textron Airborne Solutions. France’s La Tribune said this sale was valued at an estimated 21 million euros.

Paramount is no stranger to the Mirage F1 – in 2003 the South African Air Force put 21 Mirage F1 aircraft up for disposal by way of Armscor and Paramount subsequently purchased the entire Mirage F1 package, including airframes, spares and support equipment in 2006. Paramount Aerospace has sold F1s to Congo Brazzaville and Gabon.

Paramount Aerospace Systems (initially a partnership between Aerosud Aerospace Systems and Paramount before Paramount’s acquisition in 2014) started out training pilots for F1 customers, but now operates a wide-ranging pilot training capability from ab initio to advanced fighter training in South Africa and customer countries.

Paramount said it has extensive capability on the Mirage F1 with full airframe and engine overhaul capability, as well as the ability to upgrade, modernise avionics and mission systems.

Its pilot training school at Polokwane uses Cessna 172 and Alenia Aermacchi SF-260 propeller aircraft for ab initio training, followed by an Atlas Impala jet trainer and two-seat Mirage 5 for fast jet conversion. Paramount Aerospace developed a new F1 simulator for student pilots and also has simulators for the SF260 and Impala.

In addition to pilot training, a technical school also based at Polokwane trains ground crew to maintain and service aircraft. Their training course is three years long and they become qualified tradesmen.

Paramount said the demand for pilot and technician services is increasing significantly due to the global shortage of well-trained military transport and combat pilots. “The global economic slowdown has reduced the defence budgets of most countries in the world resulting in cuts across many defence sectors including aircraft, naval vessels and military vehicles. Such budgetary constraints are driving the decrease in procurement of new military aircraft, helicopter and UAV’s and place huge emphasis on more affordable solutions such as maintenance, repair and modernisation of existing equipment and the associated training requirements,” said Ivor Ichikowitz, Group Chairman of Paramount Group.

“Through decades of expertise, continuous innovation and the strengthening of our aircraft upgrade, maintenance, integration, logistics and training solutions, Paramount Aerospace Systems is optimally positioned to provide this capability to any air force in the world. We are very proud of this world-class African capability that is critical for extending the service life of aircraft while reducing the high acquisition costs of new equipment. Paramount Aerospace Systems is well positioned to become one of the major global players in this space, and the acquisition and placing of these aircraft into service furthers this objective,” Ichikowitz added.

Picture: Tony Osborne
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