The First Flight Of A Mirage F-1 Belonging To A Private Aggressor Company Has Occurred
The Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC), which is now owned by Textron, has put one of the 63 Mirage F-1s it bought from France into the air for the very first time. To our knowledge, this is the first time an F-1 owned by a private aggressor firm has flown in the United States. ATAC’s biggest competitor, Draken International, has also bought 22 Mirage F-1s, from Spain in their case, to serve as supersonic, radar-toting aggressors to fight against the Pentagon’s air forces.
The historic flight took place on August 22nd, at Fort Worth Alliance Airport in Texas. ATAC has called Newport News in Virginia home for roughly two decades, but the firm has built a major operations center in Fort Worth dubbed the Adversary Center of Excellence (ACE). It will be the primary hub for its rapidly expanding private air force that will see tasking all over the country and beyond.
Author’s note: Read all about ATAC and its roots in this past feature of mine that ran in Combat Aircraft Magazine nearly a decade ago.
The aircraft that flew was a two-seat F-1B. Roughly 45 of the company’s surplus Mirage F-1s will be upgraded with new avionics, radars, and electronic warfare systems. These jets will join the company’s supersonic IAI F-21 Kfirs and Aero Vodochoty L-39 trainers, as well as its Mk58 Hawker Hunters, that round out its diverse fleet. The company’s Mirage F-1s are set to be heavily tasked as the Pentagon’s appetite for contractor aggressor services continues to increase.
You can read a bit more about why the F-1 represents such an attractive aggressor to satisfy higher-end, supersonic-capable adversary training in this past piece of mine. In fact, going with upgraded third-generation fighters to replicate fourth-generation adversaries more efficiently has already led to one firm flying F-5s beating out another firm, ATAC, which had proposed using second-hand F-16s for the mission. You can read about the details surrounding this decision here.
Although this was just one particular contract, and there are many more with varying requirements, the fiscal value proposition that upgraded third-generation fighters offer may prove to be widely more attractive than the very high-maneuverability and other enhanced performance and capability features that true fourth-generation fighters bring to the table. This could end up placing even more demand on the aggressor Mirage F-1 fleet.
A huge congrats to ATAC. The company largely blazed the trail for this entire industry and continued believing and investing in the concept when it was far from being widely accepted across the services. That patience and conviction appear to be on the verge of paying off in spades.
A huge thanks to Caulun Belcher for sharing his lovely images of the flight with us. Make sure to follow his work on Facebook and on Instagram!
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