Tag Archives: Mirage F1

Mirages around Florida…

Draken International is perhaps the most capable player in the contract adversary air training game, fielding a fleet of modern jets to go OPFOR against forces large and small. They recently picked up a ton of retired supersonic fighter bombers (20 single-seat Mirage F1Ms and two two-seat F1Bs) from Spain and have been busy putting them back together and getting them flightworthy. As the F1s had arrived in disassembled in crates and had seen much use, it is no easy task.

The Mirage F1 in Spanish service

Working with Paramount Aerospace Systems, they are getting it done and Draken’s first refurbished F1 took to the air on 12 November at Lakeland Linder International Airport in Lakeland, Florida and has so far completed four sorties while another F1M completed slow speed taxi tests on Monday.

Some are also getting a new, digital scheme, similar to what is seen on PLAAF and Russian aircraft in recent years.

The former Spanish Air Force F1 fleet will soon join Draken’s 13 A-4K/N Skyhawks and 23 L-159 Honey Badgers that currently support the U.S. Air Force out of Nellis Air Force Base with “red air” aggressor training. Draken also acquired nine ex-South African Air Force Cheetah C and three Cheetah D fighters, derived from the older Mirage III, from Denel in 2018 and fields no less than 27 MiG-21s as well.

The spirit of Lamb and Rader

Over the dusty town of Naco in Mexico, two American mercenary aviators– Dean Ivan Lamb, in a Curtiss biplane and Phil Rader in a Christofferson pusher– flying for rival factions in that country’s revolution, decided to settle who had control of the sky through an impromptu handgun duel. Lamb reportedly circled to reload while resting his revolver inside his shirt while he retrieved spare cartridges from his belt and then stuck the wheelgun between his legs to feed the cylinder with one hand while keeping control of his aircraft with the other.

The duel ended without bloodshed, although distances between the two flying machines at the time was reportedly much less than 50 feet and it has been debated if the two, who were associates, simply put on a show for the benefit of their respective employers. Regardless, the date, often given as 30 November 1913, makes this action between the airborne soldiers of fortune the first recorded aerial combat and was only a decade after the Wright Brothers took to the clouds.

Fast forward to 2019 and you still have aerial mercenaries, such as Borys Reyes, a former Ecuadorian fighter jock, whose vintage (1978-79 model) French-made Dassault Mirage F1 strike fighter was shot down by Libyan National Army forces near al-Watiyah on 23 April.

Another F1 driver, a pilot flying for the rival Libyan Government of National Accord who was shot down by the LNA in May and was recently turned over, is 31-year-old Florida resident Jamie Sponaugle.

This guy.

A U.S. Air Force vet, Sponaugle was an enlisted man and later NCO who worked on a ground crew on active duty and in the Florida Air Guard for a total of 10 years while he picked up a private pilot’s license.

Not bad.

Of course, Sponaugle just spent six weeks as a GNA POW in Libya but he has one hell of a story to tell.

As for the official line: “We are always pleased to see Americans held captive overseas returned home to their friends and family,” Ambassador Robert O’Brien, President Trump’s envoy for hostage affairs, told media. “We appreciate his captors’ decision to release him. We also thank the kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its role in resolving this case.”

Soldier of Fortune, Mirage edition

Almost since the days of the Wright brothers, some of the first trained aviators took to the sky for the highest bidder in far-off places. While most know these pilots primarily through the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) in 1940s China and Air America in 1960s-70s Vietnam, the fact is just about every conflict since 1911 has seen at least a few pilots taking their skills overseas for adventure– and varying amounts of cash.

The latest example seems to be Borys Reyes, an Ecuadorian fighter pilot, whose vintage (1978-79 model) Dassault Mirage F1 was apparently shot down by Libyan National Army forces near al-Watiyah on 23 April. Flying for the UN-recognised Libyan Government of National Accord, the LNA has described Reyes as a “mercenary.”

The LNA has released images they say are his ejection seat, survival gear, parachute, and flight suit name patch– but not Reyes, who apparently was able to beat feet.

Janes notes that several players in the area are disputing LNAs version of the events, which is common.

It should be noted that the Libyan Air Force in the Gaddafi-era used merc pilots hired from East German, Czechoslovakia, and other assorted Warsaw Pact countries for much of the Cold War, transitioning to a more diverse group in the 1990s.

Textron is now the largest Mirage F1 operator in the world

Former Armée de l’Air Dassault Mirage F1s could be a familiar sight over U.S. skies near aggressor bases

As noted by Flight Global, Textron subsidiary Airborne Tactical Advantage Company just picked up 63 former French Air Force (Armée de l’Air) Mirage F1B, F1CT, and F1CR for dissimilar air combat training and aggressor squadron purposes for the U.S. Air Force. The deal included 150 engines and a host of other gear the French weren’t using anymore.

“Textron is planning to retrofit the F1s with modern avionics systems such as digital radio frequency memory jamming capabilities and upgraded radars,” ATAC chief executive Jeffrey Parker says. “The requirements we’re seeing the air force describe clearly include a modern radar such as AESA or a highly capable mechanically scanned array radar.”

A tip-top dual purpose strike fighter when introduced in 1973, over 720 F1s were fielded with the French using the lion share (246) and the Ecuadorian, Greek, Iraqi (the Exocet attack on the USS Stark), Libyan, Moroccan, South African, and Spanish getting smaller quantities, though almost all have retired them.

The French disbanded the last squadron flying the F1 in 2014 and today only Gabon flies a few surplus Armée de l’Air jets, and the Libyans have a handful the French are upgrading while the Iranians are thought to have about a dozen operational F1BQs and F1EQs that escaped Desert Storm by skipping over the border in 1991.