A Mirage F1 fighter jet crashed near Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, US, on February 10, 2022.
According to a press release posted by the air base, the incident occurred at 11:11 a.m. MST (18:11 GMT) 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of the base in an unpopulated area.
“The pilot was able to safely eject. The cause of the incident is under investigation,” the release states, adding that personnel from the base’s security force, ordinance disposal unit and fire department were already on site, in addition to local police.
According to Brig. Gen. Gregory Kreuder, 56th Fighter Wing Commander, the pilot sustained minor injuries.
Military.com reports that the crash was witnessed by a local land surveyor who saw the jet descending without “making any noise”, before exploding into a fireball and a dust cloud. According to the report, the man then noticed a parachute, drove to find the pilot, and offered him some water.
While the official information does not mention which private military company the jet belonged to, The War Zone reports that it was used by Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC), a subsidiary of Textron. This fact was later confirmed by the company.
In 2017, ATAC purchased 63 retired Mirage F1s from the French Air Force, adding the aircraft to an inventory of IAI Kfirs, Hawker Hunters and L-39 Albatrosses.
In 2020, the first squadron of Mirages became operational and ATAC began to use the aircraft for various training activities, most prominently adversary air support, also known as ‘red air’.
Like many other PMCs, ATAC employs ex-military pilots who act as an enemy in mock combat, using equipment and tactics that are likely to be encountered during a war.
ATAC had previously lost one of its Mirage F1s in February 2021, when it overran the runway at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, injuring the two pilots who were operating the jet.