Draken’s Mirage F1s begin flying in US adversary role


Draken International has begun flying supersonic, radar equipped Mirage F1M fighters to support US Air Force (USAF) combat training at Nellis Air Force Base after the aircraft were returned to service by Paramount Aerospace Systems.

The fully modernized Mirage F1Ms, predominately flown by the Spanish Air Force in the past, now challenge US and coalition 4th and 5th generation fighters over the skies of the Nevada Test and Training Range in the development of warfighter’s tactics, techniques, and procedures, Draken International said on 26 March.

“Over the past two years, the collaborative efforts between Draken International and Paramount Aerospace Systems has resulted in the reassembly, restoration, and certification of the fleet of Mirage F1s. This extensive project was accomplished at Draken’s maintenance facility in Lakeland, Florida. Draken has also begun the acceptance of the fleet of Denel Cheetahs from the South African Air Force, a 4th Generation supersonic radar-equipped fighter that joins Draken’s operational fleet,” the company said.

Sean Gustafson, VP of Business Development at Draken stated, “Draken 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.”

Draken flew its first refurbish F1M on 12 November 2019 from Lakeland Linder International Airport. Paramount Aerospace Systems and Draken signed a contract in 2018 for the overhaul and ongoing engineering support of its fleet of 22 ex-Spanish Mirage F1s.

Paramount Aerospace says it specializes in the modernization of fixed wing platforms including leading the previous modernization of the Mirage F1M while still in Spanish Air Force service. Through predecessor company Advanced Technologies and Engineering (ATE), Paramount was involved in modernising Spain’s F1CE/EE/EDA fleet to F1M standard.

The modernisation of the Spanish F1s covered a service life extension programme (SLEP) and avionics upgrade for 48 F1CE/EE (C.14A/B) single-seaters and four F1EDA (C.14C) two-seat trainers. Thomson-CSF RCM was awarded the FFr700 million contract in 1996. Spanish companies Amper Programas, Indra and CASA acted as sub-contractors while ATE was responsible for the design and integration of the navigation, display and weapons systems. The last upgraded fighter was handed over to the Spanish air Force in 2001.

Apart from the SLEP, the upgrade package includes a revised cockpit with colour liquid crystal displays and a Smart HUD; a Sextant inertial navigation system with GPS interface; air-to-ground radar rangefinding capability; NATO-compatible Have Quick 2 secure communications; Mode 4 digital IFF; a defensive aids suite; and flight recorders.

Draken also acquired nine ex-South African Air Force Cheetah C and three Cheetah D fighters from Denel in 2018. These will join its more than 100 tactical fighter aircraft, including the A-4 Skyhawk and L-159 Honey Badger.