Draken International has signed an agreement with Paramount Aerospace Systems for the overhaul and engineering support of 22 ex-Spanish Air Force Mirage F1 fighters.
Announcing the deal on 9 April, the two companies said Draken had acquired the 20 single-seat Mirage F1Ms and two two-seat F1Bs to enhance adversary services for its US Department of Defense and allied nation customers. The Mirages were predominantly flown by the Spanish Air Force and received a full radar and avionics suite modernization (colour LCDs, Smart HUD, INS, GPS, Have Quick II radios and additional radar modes) in the late 1990s, taking them from F1CE/EE and F1EDA up to F1M standard.
This acquisition along with the most recent purchase of twelve supersonic radar equipped South African Denel Cheetah fighter jets from Denel, announced earlier this year, increased Draken’s fleet size to over 150 fighter aircraft.
“With the completion of the procurement phase, the Mirage F1Ms will now undergo reassembly, restoration and airworthiness certification by Paramount Aerospace Systems at Draken’s Lakeland, Florida, maintenance facility. Paramount Aerospace specializes in the modernization of fixed wing platforms including leading the previous modernization of the Mirage F1M while still in Spanish Air Force military service. Paramount possess extensive capabilities on the Mirage F1 with full airframe and engine overhaul capability, as well as the ability to upgrade, modernize avionics and mission systems,” the companies said in a statement.
“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”, said Jared Isaacman, CEO of Draken International.
Draken says its core competency is its ability to acquire, regenerate, modernize and operate affordable, supportable, credible and capable fighter aircraft. “This is demonstrated by the over 150 fighter aircraft Draken has acquired in the last 6 years and the numerous government contracts being supported in the United States DoD and abroad. Draken also remains dedicated to tracking and evaluating aircraft globally with proven success operating fleets of aircraft that include the Mirage F1M, Denel Cheetah, A-4 Skyhawk, L-159 Honey Badger and Aermacchi MB-339.”
Ivor Ichikowitz, Group Chairman of Paramount Group said: “We are extremely excited by the partnership with Draken International and the establishment of long-term relationships in support of the US Air Force. There are very strong synergies between our organisations in meeting the ever-increasing demand for the effective utilisation of legacy aircraft in adversary training. Our collaboration with Draken underlines the importance of strategic partnerships for providing flexible, scalable and affordable solutions for the US Air Force.”
Both Draken International and Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) are competing for the US Air Force’s adversary air (ADAIR) or ‘red air’ training requirements and have been bolstering their respective fleets as a result. For instance, ATAC acquired 63 ex-French F1s last year and Paramount Aerospace Systems will be providing Mirage F1 pilot and technical training for these.
Paramount has extensive experience with the F1, having purchased the ex-South African Air Force F1 fleet, along with spares, simulators, training aids and other related material, and sold a number to Congo Brazzaville and Gabon. It has also done F1 upgrades for other customers, and in October 2017 announced it had acquired four ex-French F1Bs “to enhance its pilot training capabilities”. They will be used for pilot and maintenance technician training. Paramount also operates a fighter aircraft pilot training academy in South Africa, the only of its kind on the African continent.