On May 24, 2021, a Mirage F1C, operated by the private military company Drakken International, crashed near a residential area north of Las Vegas, Nevada. The aircraft, registered as N565EM, had departed from the nearby Nellis Air Force Base.
“Draken has received news of a downed aircraft out of Nellis AFB and the tragic loss of one of our pilots,” the contractor wrote in a statement. “Draken US is […] cooperating with investigating agencies to determine what led to this tragic accident.”
The National Transport Safety Bureau opened an investigation to determine the cause of the accident.
Draken International has purchased 22 Dassault Mirage F1s which previously served within the Spanish Air Force, in a bid to secure an Adversary Air Services (ADAIR) contract. The role of the private fighter fleet is to offer an opponent during the training of the United States Air Force fighter pilots.
The Draken F1s commenced providing training at Nellis Air Force Base, where the company already operates 11 A-4 Skyhawks and 18 L-159 Honey Badgers, in March 2020.
The Dassault Mirage F1 is a multirole combat aircraft that entered service in 1973. Replaced in the French Air Force by the Dassault Mirage 2000 and Dassault Rafale, it is still in use in several air forces around the world, such as Iran.
In February 2021, a Mirage F1B operated by Draken’s main competitor, Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC), crashed at the end of the runway of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, in the United States. To compete in the ADAIR tender, ATAC also acquired 63 Mirage F1 fighter jets from the French Air Force for a total value of €25 million in July 2017.
In October 2019, the Pentagon awarded $6.4 billion worth of contracts to seven companies to provide realistic training to the USAF. Additionally to ATAC and Draken, Air USA, Blue Air Training, Coastal Defense, Tactical Air Support, and Top Aces were also contracted. The panel of companies offers a diversified fleet of aircraft.