Pilot Dies In Crash Of Contractor-Owned Mirage F1 Adversary Jet Near Nellis AFB (Updated)
The aircraft was owned by Draken International, which flies an array of tactical jets out of Nellis AFB to provide adversary services.
Details are still coming in, but a plane associated in some way with Nellis Air Force Base has crashed. The type of aircraft involved, the status of any individuals on board the aircraft, and what damage, or worse, the aircraft may have caused when it slammed into the ground, are unknown at this time.
A post from the base's official Twitter account has confirmed an "incident involving an aircraft associated with Nellis Air Force Base," but offered no additional details. The War Zone has already reached out to Nellis for more information about this incident. Reports of a possible crash near Nellis first began to emerge just before 2:30 local time.
KVVU-TV, a local Fox affiliate in Las Vegas, said that the Clark County Fire Department responded to a reported plane crash at 2245 N. Christy Lane. This address is in a residential area less than three miles southwest of Nellis.
At the time of writing, online flight tracking data available through ADS-B Exchange shows a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Hughes 530 helicopter orbiting the reported area of the crash and subsequent fire. Other data showed that a Department of Energy Bell 412 helicopter had been flying in the same area following the reported crash, before returning to Nellis, and may have been one of the first aircraft on the scene.
Bryan Herbert, a former photojournalist for ONSCENE.TV and the Ridgecrest Daily Independent wrote on Twitter that "heavy black smoke and a parachute [were] seen" and subsequent Tweeted out that the aircraft involved may have been a Mirage F1M belonging to private contractor Draken International that had been using the callsign Sniper 01, but this remains unconfirmed. In a separate Tweet, he also said personnel from Nellis, the Clark County Fire Department, and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police were still looking for the pilot.
Draken, which provides "red air" adversary support to the U.S. Air Force, among others, began flying its ex-Spanish Air Force Mirage F1Ms out of Nellis last year.
We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.
UPDATE, 7:15 PM EST:
Officials at Nellis Air Force Base have now confirmed that a contractor-operated aircraft crashed just outside of the base's southern perimeter, but have still not yet said what the type of aircraft was or what contractor was operating it at the time. "Multiple federal and local first responders are on scene," a Tweet from the base's official account said. "The incident is under investigation."
Separately, Las Vegas' KLAS-TV, a CBS affiliate, has reported that the Clark County Fire Department has confirmed that the pilot onboard the aircraft at the time of the incident has died.
UPDATE: 9:53 PM EST—
Here is the official statement from Nellis AFB:
A contracted-aircraft that took off from Nellis Air Force Base crashed at approximately 2:30 p.m. May 24 outside the southern edge of the base.
The aircraft was owned, operated and piloted by Draken US, a Florida-based company contracted to provide adversary air support to Nellis Air Force Base.
Please see below statement from our partners at Draken US on today’s aircraft incident:
“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,” said Draken US.
The men and women of Team Nellis send our deepest condolences to the teammates, friends and family of our Draken wingman.
The pilot’s identity has not yet been released. No other personnel were on board. Multiple federal and local first responders are on scene. The NTSB is investigating the incident.
Media queries related to Draken US should be directed to Christina Childs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We still do not know the type of aircraft involved in the incident.
UPDATE: 10:31 PM EST—
The NTSB has confirmed it was a Mirage F1.
There has been video posted from the scene on Facebook showing the fiery wreck among a number of homes.
This could be troubling news for Draken's and ATAC's Mirage F1 operations, which are just spinning-up. This is the second Mirage F1 aggressor crash in recent months, after a Mirage F1 owned by ATAC went down in Florida in February of this year. In addition, Draken lost another aircraft in 2016 while operating out of Nellis AFB, an A-4 Skyhawk. In both crashes the pilots survived.
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