The American life of the Mirage F1

U.S. Air Force photo

The Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) received the last of its 63 second-hand Mirage F1 from the French Armée de l’air on March 2, 2019.

The fighter fleet was ordered on July 2017 by ATAC, a subsidiary of the U.S. consortium Textron. The order included 63 Mirage F1 fighter jets, 6 millions of spare parts and 150 spare Atar 9K50 engines, for a contract valued at €25 million.

45 of the aircraft should come back to service to serve as aggressors in adversary air services (ADAIR) while the rest will be cannibalized for parts.

With 86 jets in total, ATAC fighter fleet counts as many aircraft as the Argentinian Air Force, the 45th largest in the world. “Our Mirage F1 inventory represents the single largest common fleet of privately-owned ADAIR aircraft in the world,” commented ATAC in a Facebook post, after the delivery of the last jet.

Private fighters, piloted by veteran fighter pilots, give the opportunity of carrying out Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) which involves two types of aircraft. For example, ATAC participates in the famous “Exercise Red Flag” which takes place several times every year at  Nellis Air Force Base, in Nevada, and involves not only the US military but also other allied air forces. The Mirage F1 will also allow for the United States to train its Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) to designate targets for precision bombing and close air support.

The United States currently holds a tender for a ten-year ADAIR contract valued at $6 billion dollars, which should be awarded in July 2019. The United Kingdom are currently comparing the bidders of a similar program called Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) valued at £1,2 billion ($1.5 billion).

The last French F1 Mirage was retired from active service in June 2014, and had been stored at Châteaudun air base, near Paris, while waiting for a buyer. Draken International, ATAC’s main competitor, was also after the retired French planes. Instead, in December 2017, it acquired 22 Mirage F1 fighter jets from the Spanish Air Force.

The Dassault Mirage F1 is a multirole combat aircraft that entered service in 1973. Unlike other fighter jets of the Mirage family, it does not feature a delta wing, but instead uses a more traditional swept wing. Replaced in the French Armée de l’air by the Dassault Mirage 2000 and Dassault Rafale, it is still in use in five air forces around the world.

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