Draken’s First Regenerated Mirage F1B Makes Maiden Flight in Florida

The first Mirage F1B operated by Draken International made its first flight recently at Lakeland. (Image credit: Paramount Group).

The first Mirage F1 for Draken International took to the skies from Lakeland Linder International Airport, Lakeland, Florida. But it looks like it’s not a former Spanish Air Force jet.

As we have already reported, Draken International recently unveiled the first of its 22 Mirage F1 jets that the company will employ for CAS (Contract Air Services) adversary role.

Indeed, Mirage F1s are undergoing reassembly, restoration and airworthiness certification at Draken’s Lakeland, Florida maintenance facility, and will soon join the company’s 13 A-4 Skyhawks and 23 L-159 Honey Badgers that currently support the USAF out of Nellis Air Force Base.

The first aircraft rolled out at Lakeland was painted in a digitized desert camouflage that seemed to be inspired by the modern digital patterns also sported by the Russian aircraft but also reminded of the color scheme of the South African Air Force Mirage F1CZ.

Here’s what we have written in the past article about the first Mirage F1 in digital paint scheme:

In 2017, Draken International announced the procurement of 22 Mirage F1M and F1B fighter jets. Previously flown by the Spanish Air Force, these aircraft will join Draken’s existing fleet of radar-equipped Douglas A-4K Skyhawks and Aero Vodochody L-159E “Honey Badger” fighter jets to support Draken’s Nellis AFB ADAIR contract which provides adversary training for the USAF Weapons School, Red Flag exercises, operational test support, RTU support, and Combat Air Forces abroad.

“In 1996, the Spanish Air Force, along with Thomson-CSF (Thales Group), spent $96M on a modernization upgrade, including cockpit enhancements, LCD MFDs, Advanced HUD, INS/GPS, Electronic Attack systems and a special performance upgrade for the Cyrano IVM radar. The Spanish Mirage F1M fleet was decommissioned in February 2013 and stored in Albacete Air Base, Spain until Draken’s purchase in September 2017. After extensive research, these Mirage F1s proved to be the best equipped and lowest time fighters of their kind available to the industry,” said a company news release last year.

However, as unveiled by Scramble Magazine, the first regenerated Mirage F1 to take to the skies is not a former Spanish jet but an F1B example previously operating with the French Air Force. Indeed, the base livery is exactly the same used by the Armée de l’Air (and for this reason similar to the one of ATAC’s that has purchased 63 Mirage F1 previously belonging to the FAF).

According to the Dutch specialized media outlet, the aircraft, registered “N552EM/522 (former AdlA 509) was bought by South African defense contractor Paramount Group, transferred to Paramount Aerospace Systems USA at Fort Worth (TX) and then supplied to Draken International”.

Draken’s Mirage F1 landing at Lakeland, Florida. (Image credit: Paramount Group)

Paramount Aerospace Systems, a subsidiary of Paramount Group, is the global aerospace and technology company providing upgrade and engineering support for Draken International’s Mirage F1 fleet. According to the South African company, they signed a contract with Draken last year for the overhaul and ongoing engineering support of the fleet of Mirage F1’s.

The official news release for the Draken’s first Mirage F1 flight does only say that “Paramount Aerospace specializes in the modernization of fixed wing platforms including leading the previous modernization of the Mirage F1M while still in Spanish Air Force military service.”

Whatever, here are some interesting shots of the Draken’s first Mirage F1B.

The first Mirage F1B operated by Draken International taxiing at Lakeland. (Image credit: Paramount Group).

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.