Private Mirage F1 makes maiden flight in the United States

U.S. Air Force photo

Five years after its retirement from the French Armée de l’air, the Mirage F1 completed its maiden flight in the United States as part of a private fleet. 63 Dassault fighter jets were acquired by Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC), a subsidiary of Textron.

The aircraft which accomplished its test flight on August 22, 2019, was a Mirage F1B (two-seater), registered N601AX, that used to be part of the Escadron de reconnaissance 2/33 Savoie. The flight took place in Fort Worth near Dallas, Texas, where ATAC opened its Adversary Center of Excellence in February 2018. The fighter jet was still sporting the special livery created for its retirement flight above the Champs Elysees during France’s national day parade on July 14, 2014.

Back in 2017, ATAC acquired 63 Mirage F1 jets, 6 millions of spare parts and 150 spare Atar 9K50 engines from the French air force in a contract valued at €25 million. About 40 of those planes should be made operational again, while the rest will be used for parts. “Our Mirage F1 inventory represents the single largest common fleet of privately-owned ADAIR aircraft in the world,”ATAC wrote in a Facebook post upon receiving received their last jet.

The Dassault Mirage F1 is a multirole combat aircraft that entered service in 1973. Replaced in the French Armée de l’air by the Dassault Mirage 2000 and Dassault Rafale, it is still in use in several air forces around the world, most noticeably in Iran.

Private fighter jets, operated by veteran fighter pilots, give the opportunity of carrying out Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) which involves two types of aircraft. 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 US Air Force needs “more capability and they need more capacity. They can’t generate that internally anymore,” ATAC chief executive Jeffrey Parker told Dallas News.

The United States currently holds a tender for a ten-year ADAIR contract valued at $6 billion dollars. The candidates have to be able to provide 37,000 hours of training flight annually for 10 years to the pilots of the US Air Force. ATAC is competing with another private military contractor, Draken International, which has also bought 22 Mirage F1 aircraft from the Ejército del aire (Spanish air force). However, it seems that ATAC had the edge in the competition, as its rival has not flown any of its fighter jets yet.

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