A Draken US pilot flying a Dassault Mirage F1 fighter jet died in a crash Monday afternoon outside the southern perimeter of Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
The company confirmed the unnamed pilot’s death in a statement from Nellis the same evening. The pilot was the sole person on board the aircraft.
“Draken has received news of a downed aircraft out of Nellis AFB and the tragic loss of one of our pilots,” the contractor said. “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.”
Florida-based Draken owns and flies Mirage F1s for “red air” missions opposing American forces as part of Air Force training. Spokespeople for the service and the company did not immediately answer what the pilot was doing at the time of the crash.
The plane went down in a residential neighborhood, billowing dark smoke, about three miles from Nellis and 12 miles north of the Las Vegas Strip, according to a report by KLAS-8, the CBS station in Las Vegas.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the mishap, which occurred around 2:30 p.m. local time. It will release a preliminary report in about two weeks.
“Multiple federal and local first responders are on scene,” Lt. Col. Bryon McGarry, a Nellis spokesman, said in an email. “The incident is under investigation.”
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department referred questions to the military.
Nellis is home to several key organizations, including the Air Force Weapons School, which offers graduate-level courses in weapons and tactics for a variety of fighter, bomber, reconnaissance and mobility aircraft as well as cyber and intelligence-gathering operations and the nuclear enterprise. The base hosts training against mock aggressor forces, major military exercises, the Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team and more.
It’s also home to the 12,000-square-nautical mile Nevada Test and Training Range, a major venue for realistic weapons training and the “largest contiguous air and ground space available for peacetime military operations in the free world,” according to the Air Force.
“Kathy and I are praying for all those involved in today’s incident -- especially the men and women of @NellisAFB and the first responders on the scene,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a tweet.
USAF jets have suffered multiple mishaps so far this year, including a T-38C Talon crash in Alabama in February that killed a flight instructor and a Japanese student pilot; an F-22 Raptor with a landing gear that failed to deploy at Eglin AFB, Florida, in March; and a F-15QA Eagle that declared an emergency and skidded off of a runway in Illinois last week.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.