Draken International, the adversary support contractor with the world's largest private tactical jet air force, is working hard to bring their fleet of 22 ex-Spanish Air Force Mirage F-1M fighters to life. They will serve as the backbone of the firm's so called 'fourth generation' fighter threat emulation capability, with features that primarily include a capable air-to-air radar and supersonic performance. Draken aims for the planes to fulfill the ever expanding demand for advanced private adversary support, both at home in the U.S. and abroad.
The awesome photo of the F-1's glowing cockpit was taken by our friend and top aviation photog, José "Fuji" Ramos, who is a Visual Media Consultant for Draken International. Being brought on in such a role with the firm isn't all that surprising as Fuji has deep roots in the Naval Aviation community. He has spent decades taking pictures of military aircraft in action from the cockpits of U.S. Navy aircraft. I did a feature on Fuji and his work five years ago, it is well worth the click!
The second-hand Mirages Draken bought aren't some antiquated slouch of a fighter aircraft. Spain continuously invested in their Mirage F-1M force over the years and they feature pretty much all one would need to step across the threshold into the emerging high-performance, radar-equipped adversary support marketplace. Draken describes the aircraft's current avionics fit as such:
"The Spanish Air Force completed a modernization upgrade to the fleet in the late 1990s. The project included a revised cockpit with color LCDs and a Smart HUD from Sextant Avionique, a Sextant inertial navigation system with GPS interface; NATO-compatible Have Quick 2 secure communications; Mode 4 digital IFF; a defensive aids suite; and flight recorders. The radar was upgraded to Cyrano IVM standard, adding sea search and air to ground ranging modes."
If Draken can get away with minimal modifications to the jet's avionics suite in order to meet customers' needs, it could give them a leg up when it comes to bidding on future adversary support contracts. Competitors have had to introduce somewhat drastic upgrades of their platform's avionics installation, which adds to the cost to field the aircraft in a state that is truly mission ready. Many other cost factors apply to any potential contract, but saving in one area can allow for more budgetary flexibility in another.
The sleek French-built fighters are now deep in the reassembly process and the first is slated to fly this Spring. The F-1s will join Draken's fleet of over 150 tactical jets, which include A-4 Skyhawks, Atlas Cheetahs, L159 Honey Badgers, L-39s, and MB339s. The company also owns dozens of MiG-21s, although they are not part of the Florida-based firm's regular operations. You can read much more about the Draken's F-1s in this past piece of ours.
Between Draken and their competitor, the Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC), who has also bought surplus Mirage F1s, but from France, one of Dassault's sexiest fighters will soon be gracing the skies over the United States en-masse.
Author's note: Make sure to follow Fuji on Instagram, he has one hell of a feed!
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com