A civilian-operated Dassault Mirage F1 crashed shortly after takeoff from Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, killing the pilot. The single-engine jet fighter crashed into a residential area, but there are no reports of injuries on the ground. The Mirage was owned and operated by Draken International, which provides “adversary air support” for military forces around the world. Its Draken US unit is based at Lakeland Linder Airport in Florida and has a large contingent based at Nellis.
In June 2018, the U.S. Air Force awarded Draken US a $280 million contract extension to continue “Red Air” adversary flights against F-15s of the 57th Adversary Tactics Group based at Nellis, as well as fighters based at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
The accident occurred around 2:30 p.m. on Monday (May 24). In a written statement, Draken responded, “Draken has received news of a downed aircraft out of Nellis AFB and the tragic loss of one of our pilots. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people and families affected by this event. We are doing everything in our power to assist them in this time of need, and we are working closely with federal, state and local authorities. Draken US is also cooperating with investigating agencies to determine what led to this tragic accident.” The pilot’s identity has not yet been released.
Draken operates a fleet of around 70 aircraft, mostly fighter/attack aircraft, including 21 Mirage F1s, which it recently acquired from the Spanish air force. The company flew its first Mirage adversary sortie against Nellis-based F-15E Strike Eagles on March 18, 2020.
Draken provides the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. defense contractors, and aerospace firms with airborne adversary support (Red Air), Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), Close Air Support (CAS), flight training, threat simulation, electronic warfare support, aerial refueling, research, and testing services. Its pilots are described as retired tactical combat jet pilots of the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps with top-tier experience, including with the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) and the USAF Thunderbirds.