A Hawker Hunter fighter jet, belonging to the private military corporation Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC), has crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina.  

According to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the incident occurred approximately 40 miles (64 kilometers) at 5.15 pm EDT (21:15 GMT) on June 20, 2022. 

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued the pilot, however, there is no further information regarding their current condition, the statement said.  

ADS-B Exchange data shows the aircraft, registered as N337AX, conducting what appears to be an air combat exercise together with several more Hawker Hunters and two IAI Kfirs, all belonging to ATAC. 

At approximately 4:51 pm, following a series of hard maneuvers, the N337AX began to descend in a pair with the second Hunter, registered as N344AX. At 4:56 the tracking service stopped registering the first Hunter, showing it at the altitude of 3,750 feet (1,143 meters). 

The N344AX then continued to circle the apparent crash site for several minutes.  

Air Traffic Controller (ATC) audio, recorded by LiveATC and posted online, suggests the pilot was picked up by a fishing vessel immediately after the crash and may have sustained a serious back injury.  

ATAC, a subsidiary of Textron, is a PMC that operates a range of combat aircraft, including Mirage F1s, IAI Kfirs and Hawker Hunters. The company provides a range of services, including adversary training where its pilots act as an enemy in mock air-to-air engagements.  

In February 2022 another of ATAC’s jets, a Mirage F1, crashed in Arizona 

The majority of air forces are maintained and commanded by sovereign states, being part of their military structures and having the aim of protecting the country’s interests. However, there is another kind of air forces: the private ones, belonging to commercial companies and offering their services for profit.

According to the War Zone, the N337AX was 63 years old at the time of the crash. While still widely employed by private military companies, the Hawker Hunter remains one of world’s oldest combat aircraft currently in service, having been designed in the 1940s and entering service in 1955.  

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