A private military contractor piloting a French-made Mirage F1 fighter jet suffered minor injuries after ejecting from the cabin as the aircraft went down in a non-residential area of Arizona on Thursday morning, the US Air Force has revealed.
The incident unfolded around 11am local time, around 15 miles away from Luke Air Force Base – home of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) – west of Phoenix.
“I’m grateful nobody was hurt on the ground and the pilot was safely recovered with only minor injuries,” Brigadier-General Gregory Kreuder said in a statement about the incident.
Local police, firefighters, and explosive ordnance disposal experts responded to the scene of the crash, suggesting that the fighter jet may have been armed.
The French-built fighter and attack plane designed by Dassault Aviation was owned by Virginia-based government contractor Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC). Its representatives told local media that the jet was destroyed in the crash.
The F1 was retired from French service in 2014, but a number of US military contractors use it for the role of ‘aggressor squadron’ opponents to Air Force pilots in training exercises.
This is the second Mirage F1 to crash in the western US in less than a year. Last May, a pilot for Texas-based military contractor Draken died after his plane crashed in a residential area in northeast Las Vegas, Nevada. Draken subsequently grounded its Mirage F1 fleet for three months to investigate the incident. Flights eventually resumed in August, with Draken saying they were “double-checking and triple-checking everything” but “have not found anything to be amiss.”
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