Dassault Mirage III
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Information on the Mirage III
The Dassault Mirage III is a supersonic fighter aircraft designed in France by Dassault Aviation during the 1950s, and manufactured both in France and a number of other countries. It was one of the most successful fighter aircraft ever made, being sold to many air forces around the world and remaining in production for over a decade. Some of the world's smaller air forces still fly Mirage IIIs or variants as front-line equipment today, including Argentina, Chile, Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Pakistan (largest operator), Peru, and Venezuela.
The Mirage III family grew out of French government studies begun in 1952 that led in early 1953 to a specification for a lightweight, all-weather interceptor capable of climbing to 18,000 m (59,040 ft) in six minutes and able to reach Mach 1.3 in level flight.
Dassault's response to the specification was the Myst?re-Delta 550, a sporty-looking little jet that was to be powered by twin Armstrong Siddeley MD30R Viper afterburning turbojets, each with thrust of 9.61 kN (2,160 lbf). A SEPR liquid-fuel rocket motor was to provide additional burst thrust of 14.7 kN (3,300 lbf). The aircraft had a tailless delta configuration, with a 5% chord (ratio of airfoil thickness to length) and 60 degree sweep.
The tailless delta configuration has a number of limitations. The lack of a horizontal stabilizer means flaps cannot be used, resulting in a long take-off run and a high landing speed. The delta wing itself limits maneuverability; and suffers from buffeting at low altitude, due to the large wing area and resulting low wing loading. However, the delta is a simple and pleasing design, easily built and robust, capable of high speed in a straight line, and with plenty of space in the wing for fuel storage.
The first prototype of the Mystere-Delta, without afterburning engine or rocket motor and an absurdly large vertical tailfin, flew on 25 June 1955. After some redesign, reduction of the tailfin to more rational size, installation of afterburners and rocket motor, and renaming to Mirage I, the prototype attained Mach 1.3 in level flight without the rocket, and Mach 1.6 with the rocket lit in late 1955.
However, the small size of the Mirage I restricted its armament to a single air-to-air missile, and even before this time it had been prudently decided the aircraft was simply too tiny to carry a useful warload. After trials, the Mirage I prototype was eventually scrapped.
Dassault then considered a somewhat bigger version, the Mirage II, with a pair of Turbomeca Gabizo turbojets, but no aircraft of this configuration was ever built. The Mirage II was bypassed for a much more ambitious design that was 30% heavier than the Mirage I and was powered by the new SNECMA Atar afterburning turbojet with thrust of 43.2 kN (9,700 lbf). The Atar was an axial flow turbojet, derived from the German World War II BMW 003 design.
The new fighter design was named the Mirage III. It incorporated the new area ruling concept, where changes to the cross section of an aircraft were made as gradual as possible, resulting in the famous "wasp waist" configuration of many supersonic fighters. Like the Mirage I, the Mirage III had provision for a SEPR rocket engine.
The prototype Mirage III flew on 17 November 1956, and attained a speed of Mach 1.52 on its seventh flight. The prototype was then fitted with the SEPR rocket engine and with manually-operated intake half-cone shock diffusers, known as souris ("mice"), which were moved forward as speed increased to reduce inlet turbulence. The Mirage III attained a speed of Mach 1.8 in September 1957.
The success of the Mirage III prototype resulted in an order for 10 preproduction Mirage IIIAs. These were almost two meters longer than the Mirage III prototype, had a wing with 17.3% more area, a chord reduced to 4.5%, and an Atar 09B turbojet with afterburning thrust of 58.9 kN (13,230 lbf). The SEPR rocket engine was retained, and the aircraft were fitted with Thompson-CSF Cyrano Ibis air intercept radar, operational avionics, and a drag chute to shorten landing roll.
The first Mirage IIIA flew in May 1958, and eventually was clocked at Mach 2.2, making it the first European aircraft to exceed Mach 2 in level flight. The tenth IIIA was rolled out in December 1959. One was fitted with a Rolls-Royce Avon 67 engine with thrust of 71.1 kN (16,000 lbf) as a test model for Australian evaluation, with the name "Mirage IIIO". This variant flew in February 1961, but the Avon powerplant was not adopted.
Mirage IIIC and Mirage IIIB
The first major production model of the Mirage series, the Mirage IIIC, first flew in October 1960. The IIIC was largely similar to the IIIA, though a little under a half meter longer and brought up to full operational fit. The IIIC was a single-seat interceptor, with an Atar 09B turbojet engine, featuring an "eyelet" style variable exhaust.
The Mirage IIIC was armed with twin 30 mm DEFA revolver-type cannon, fitted in the belly with the gun ports under the air intakes. Early Mirage IIIC production had three stores pylons, one under the fuselage and one under each wing, but a second outboard pylon was quickly added to each wing, for a total of five. The outboard pylon was intended to carry a Sidewinder air-to-air missile (AAM), later replaced by Matra Magic.
Although provision for the rocket engine was retained, by this time the day of the high-altitude bomber seemed to be over, and the SEPR rocket engine was rarely or never fitted in practice. In the first place, it required removal of the aircraft's cannon, and in the second, apparently it had a reputation for setting the aircraft on fire. The space for the rocket engine was used for additional fuel, and the rocket nozzle was replaced by a ventral fin at first, and an airfield arresting hook assembly later.
95 Mirage IIICs were obtained by the AdA, with initial operational deliveries in July 1961. The Mirage IIIC remained in service with the AdA until 1988.
The French Arm?e de l'Air (AdA) also ordered a two-seat Mirage IIIB operational trainer, which first flew in October 1959. The fuselage was stretched about a meter (3 ft 3.5 in) and both cannon were deleted to accommodate the second seat. The IIIB had no radar, and provision for the SEPR rocket was deleted, although it could carry external stores. The AdA ordered 63 Mirage IIIBs (including the prototpe), including five Mirage IIIB-1 trails aircraft, ten Mirage IIIB-2(RV) inflight refueling trainers with dummy nose probes, used for training Mirage IVA bomber pilots, and 20 Mirage IIIBEs, with the engine and some other features of the multi-role Mirage IIIE. One Mirage IIIB was fitted with a fly-by-wire flight control system in the mid-1970s and redesignated Mirage IIIB-SV (Stabilitie Variable); this aircraft was used as a testbed for the system in the later Mirage 2000.
While the Mirage IIIC was being put into production, Dassault was also considering a multirole/strike variant of the aircraft, which eventually materialized as the Mirage IIIE. The first of three prototypes flew on 1 April 1961.
The Mirage IIIE differed from the IIIC interceptor most obviously in having a 300 mm (11.8 in) forward fuselage extension to increase the size of the avionics bay behind the cockpit. The stretch also helped increase fuel capacity, as the Mirage IIIC had marginal range and improvements were needed. The stretch was small and hard to notice, but the clue is that the bottom edge of the canopy on a Mirage IIIE ends directly above the top lip of the air intake, while on the IIIC it ends visibly back of the lip.
Many Mirage IIIE variants were also fitted with a Marconi continuous-wave Doppler navigation radar radome on the bottom of the fuselage, under the cockpit. However, while no IIICs had this feature, it was not universal on all variants of the IIIE. A similar inconsistent variation in Mirage fighter versions was the presence or absence of an HF antenna that was fitted as a forward extension to the vertical tailplane. On some Mirages, the leading edge of the tailplane was a straight line, while on those with the HF antenna the leading edge had a sloping extension forward. The extension appears to have been generally standard on production Mirage IIIAs and Mirage IIICs, but only appeared in some of the export versions of the Mirage IIIE.
The IIIE featured Thompson-CSF Cyrano II dual mode air / ground radar; a radar warning receiver (RWR) system with the antennas mounted in the vertical tailplane; and an Atar 09C engine, with a petal-style variable exhaust.
The first production Mirage IIIE was delivered to the AdA in January 1964, and a total of 192 were eventually delivered to that service.
Total production of the Mirage IIIE, including exports, was substantially larger than that of the Mirage IIIC, including exports, totaling 523 aircraft. In the mid-1960s one Mirage IIIE was fitted with the improved SNECMA Atar 09K-6 turbojet for trials, and given the confusing designation of Mirage IIIC2.
A number of reconnaissance variants were built under the general designation of Mirage IIIR. These aircraft had a Mirage IIIE airframe; Mirage IIIC avionics; a camera nose and unsurprisingly no radar; and retained the twin DEFA cannon and external stores capability. The camera nose accommodated up to five OMERA cameras.
The AdA obtained 50 production Mirage IIIRs, not including two prototypes. Interestingly, the Mirage IIIR preceded the Mirage IIIE in operational introduction. The AdA also obtained 20 improved Mirage IIIRD reconnaissance variants, essentially a Mirage IIIR with an extra panoramic camera in the most forward nose position, and the Doppler radar and other avionics from the Mirage IIIE.
Mirage III operators
The Mirage IIIC was exported to Israel as the Mirage IIICJ, to South Africa as the Mirage IIICZ, and to Switzerland as the Mirage IIICS, to which one was sold in preparation for license construction. Some export customers obtained the Mirage IIIB, with designations only changed to provide a country code. Such as the Mirage IIIDA for Argentina, Mirage IIIDBR and Mirage IIIDBR-2 for Brazil. Mirage IIIBJ for Israel, Mirage IIIDL for Lebanon, Mirage IIIDP for Pakistan, Mirage IIIBZ and Mirage IIIDZ and Mirage IIID2Z for South Africa, Mirage IIIDE for Spain, Mirage IIIBS and Mirage IIIDS for Switzerland, Mirage IIIDV for Venezuela.
After the outstanding Israeli success with the Mirage IIICJ, scoring kills against Syrian Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17s and MiG-21 aircraft and then achieving a formidable victory against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in the Six-Day War of June 1967, the Mirage III's reputation was greatly enhanced. The "combat-proven" image and low cost made it a popular export success.
A good number of IIIEs were built for export as well, being purchased in small quantities by Argentina as the Mirage IIIEA and Mirage IIIEBR-2 Brazil as the Mirage IIIEBR, Lebanon as the Mirage IIIEL, Pakistan as the Mirage IIIEP, South Africa as the Mirage IIIEZ, Spain as the Mirage IIIEE, and Venezuela as the Mirage IIIEV, with a list of subvariant designations, with minor variations in equipment fit. Dassault believed the customer was always right, and was happy to accommodate changes in equipment fit as customer needs and budget required. Pakistani Mirage 5PA3, for example, were fitted with Thompson-CSF Agave radar with capability of guiding the Exocet anti-ship missile.
Some customers obtained the two-seat Mirage IIIBE under the general designation Mirage IIID, though the trainers were generally similar to the Mirage IIIBE except for minor changes in equipment fit. In some cases they were identical, since two surplus AdA Mirage IIIBEs were sold to Brazil under the designation Mirage IIIBBR, and three were similarly sold to Egypt under the designation Mirage 5SDD. New-build exports of this type included aircraft sold to Abu Dhabi, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Pakistan, Peru, Spain, Switzerland, Venezuela, and Zaire. Australian and Belgian aircraft were locally assembled.
Export versions of the Mirage IIIR were built for Pakistan as the Mirage IIIRP, South Africa as the Mirage IIIRZ, and Mirage IIIR2Z with an Atar 9K-50 jet engine, and for Switzerland. The Swiss only bought one, designated Mirage IIIRS, as a prelude to license manufacture, and built 17 more. Like the Mirage IIIS, Switzerland's Mirage IIIRS aircraft were later upgraded to feature fixed canards and new avionics. Export versions of the IIIR recce aircraft were purchased by Abu Dhabi, Belgium, Colombia, Egypt, Libya, Pakistan, and South Africa. Some export Mirage IIIRDs were fitted with British Vinten cameras, not OMERA cameras. Most of the Belgian aircraft were built locally.
The Mirage IIIE was also built under license in Australia and Switzerland. While the Avon-powered Mirage IIIO built for the Australians didn't work out, the Australians did become interested in producing their own Mirage IIIEs, retaining the designation Mirage IIIO, sometimes informally rendered as the "III-Oz". The production Mirage IIIO retained the SNECMA Atar engine, the major difference between the IIIE and the IIIO being avionics fit.
The Australians actually produced two variants: the Mirage IIIO(F), which was optimized as an interceptor, and the Mirage IIIO(A), which was optimized for the attack role. Dassault produced the first two sample IIIO(F) aircraft, with the first flying in March 1963. The Australian Government Aircraft Factory and Commonwealth Aircraft went on to complete 48 more IIIO(F) fighters and 50 IIIO(A) strike aircraft.
All the surviving Mirage IIIO(F) aircraft were converted to IIIO(A) standard between 1967 and 1979. The Mirage was finally withdrawn from Australian service in 1988, and 50 surviving examples were sold to Pakistan in 1990.
As mentioned, the Swiss acquired a single Mirage IIIC for tests, and then went on to produce 36 Mirage IIIS interceptors, with strengthened wings, airframe, and undercarriage (The Swiss air force needs performances comparable to those of embarked carrier planes). Avionics differed as well, with the most prominent difference being that the Thompson-CSF Cyrano II radar was replaced by Hughes TARAN-18 system, giving the Mirage IIIS compatibility with the Hughes AIM-4 Falcon AAM.
In the early 1990s, the 30 surviving Swiss Mirage IIIS interceptors were put through an upgrade program, which included fitting them with fixed canards and updated avionics. Exports of later variants would also feature such modified designations, though there would be elaborations that could be very confusing. A summary list of exports is provided later in this document.
Mirage 5 / Milan / Mirage 50 / Mirage 3NG
The next major variant, the Mirage 5, grew out of a request to Dassault from the Israeli Air Force. Since the weather over the Middle East is clear and sunny most of the time, the Israelis suggested deleting avionics normally stored behind the cockpit from the standard Mirage IIIE to reduce cost and maintenance, and replacing the lost avionics with more fuel storage for the attack mission. In September 1966, the Israelis placed an order for 50 examples of the new aircraft.
The first Mirage 5 flew on 19 May 1967. It looked much like the Mirage III, except it had a long slender nose that extended the aircraft's length by about half a metre, and made it arguably the most elegant of the Mirage delta series. A pitot tube was distinctively moved from the tip of the nose to below the nose in the majority of Mirage 5 variants.
The Mirage 5 retained the IIIE's twin DEFA guns, but added two additional pylons, for a total of seven. Maximum warload was 4,000 kg (8,800 lb). Provision for the SEPR rocket engine was deleted.
Rising tensions in the Middle East led French President Charles de Gaulle to embargo the Israeli Mirage 5s on 3 June 1967. The Mirages continued to roll off the production line, even though they were embargoed, and by 1968 the batch was complete and the Israelis had provided final payments.
In late 1969, the Israelis, who had pilots in France testing the aircraft, requested that the aircraft be transferred to Corsica, in theory to allow them to continue flight training during the winter. The French government became suspicious when the Israelis also tried to obtain long-range fuel tanks and cancelled the move.
The Israelis finally gave up trying to get the aircraft and accepted a refund. Later however, cooperation with France resumed outside the public's eye and Israel received 50 Mirage 5s in crates from AdA, while Ada took over the 50 aircraft originally intended for Israel, as Mirage 5Fs. The aircraft were delivered between May 1971 and February 1974 and put together by Israeli technicians. Officially, Israel claimed to have built the aircraft after obtaining complete blueprints, naming them Nesher.  , Wing Magazine, August 2000.
Like the Mirage IIIE, the Mirage 5 was popular with export customers, with different export variants fitted with a wide range of different avionics. While the Mirage 5 had been originally oriented to the clear-weather attack role, with some avionic fits it was refocused to the air-combat mission. As electronic systems became more compact and powerful, it was possible to provide the Mirage 5 with increased capability, even though the rear avionics bay had been deleted.
Reconnaissance and two-seat versions of the Mirage 5 were sold, with the designation Mirage 5R, and Mirage 5D respectively. However, a little consideration of the differences between a Mirage III and a Mirage 5 quickly shows that these designations were simply for marketing purposes. There was no clear dividing line between the configuration of a Mirage III reconnaissance or trainer version and that of a Mirage 5 equivalent, and in fact they were one and the same in many cases.
The Mirage 5 was sold to Abu Dhabi, Belgium, Colombia, Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Pakistan, Peru, Venezuela, and Zaire, with the usual list of subvariant designations and variations in kit. The Belgian aircraft were fitted with mostly US avionics, and Egyptian aircraft fitted with the MS2 attack avionics system from the Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet.
In 1978 and 1980 Israel sold a total of 35 of their Neshers plus 4 Nesher trainer aircraft (Nesher Ts) to Argentina where they were locally known as Daggers. The Argentines lost two IIIEA and 11 Daggers during the Falklands War in 1982, and as a measure of solidarity the Peruvians transferred ten of their Mirage 5s to Argentina, under the name Mirage Mara to help make good their losses.
Chile incorporated some Mirage 5 under name Mirage Elkan.
A total of 582 Mirage 5s were built, including 51 Israeli Neshers.
In 1968 Dassault, in cooperation with the Swiss, began work on a Mirage update known as the Milan ("Kite"). The main feature of the Milan was a pair of pop-out foreplanes in the nose, which were referred to as "moustaches". The moustaches were intended to provide better take-off performance and low-speed control for the attack role.
The three initial prototypes were converted from existing Mirage fighters and had non-retractable moustaches. One of these prototypes was nicknamed "Asterix", after the internationally popular French cartoon character, a tough little Gallic warrior with a huge moustache.
A fully equipped prototype rebuilt from a Mirage IIIR flew in May 1970, and was powered by the uprated SNECMA Atar 09K-50 engine, with 70.6 kN (15,900 lbf) afterburning thrust, following the evaluation of an earlier model of this new series on the one-off Mirage IIIC2. The Milan also had updated avionics, including a laser designator and rangefinder in the nose. A second fully equipped prototype was produced for Swiss evaluation as the Milan S.
The moustaches did provide significant handling benefits, but they had drawbacks. They blocked the pilot's forward view to an extent, and set up turbulence in the engine intakes. The Milan concept was abandoned in 1972, while work continued on achieving the same goals with canards.
The Atar 09K-50 engine, however, was still a good idea, and fit of this engine led to the next Mirage variant, the Mirage 50, during the 1970s. The uprated engine gave the Mirage 50 better take-off and climb characteristics than its predecessors.
While the Mirage 50 also incorporated new avionics, such as a Cyrano IV radar system, it did not prove popular in export sales, as the first-generation Mirage series was becoming obsolescent. Chile ordered a quantity of Mirage 50s, later modernized and named ENAER Pantera, receiving both new production as well as updated Armee de l'Air Mirage 5s. In 1990, Dassault also upgraded a batch of Venezuelan Mirage IIIEs and 5s to the Mirage 50 spec, with the upgrades designated Mirage 50M.
Following the development of the Mirage 50, Dassault had experimented with yet another derivative of the original Mirage series, named the Mirage 3NG (Nouvelle Generation)". Like the Milan and Mirage 50, the 3NG was powered by the Atar 9K-50 engine. The prototype, a conversion of a Mirage IIIR, flew in December 1982.
The 3NG had a modified delta wing with leading-edge root extensions, plus a pair of fixed canards fitted above and behind the air intakes. The canards provided a degree of turbulent airflow over the wing to make the aircraft more unstable and so more manoeuvrable.
Avionics were completely modernized, leveraging off the development effort for the next-generation Mirage 2000 fighter. The Mirage 3NG used a fly-by-wire system to allow control over the aircraft's instabilities, and featured an advanced nav/attack system; new multimode radar; and a laser rangefinder system. The uprated engine and aerodynamics gave the Mirage 3NG impressive performance. The type never went into production, but to an extent the 3NG was a demonstrator for various technologies that could be and were featured in upgrades to existing Mirage IIIs and Mirage Vs.
Enhancements derived from the 3NG were incorporated into Brazilian Mirage IIIEs following 1989, as well as into four ex-Arm?e de l'Air Mirage IIIEs that were transferred to Brazil in 1988. In 1989 Dassault offered a similar upgrade refit of ex-AdA Mirage IIIEs under the designation Mirage IIIEX, featuring canards, a fixed in-flight refueling probe, a longer nose, new avionics, and other refinements.
A total of 1,422 Mirage III/5/50 aircraft of all types were built by Dassault. There were a few unbuilt variants:
* A Mirage IIIK that was powered by a Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan was offered to the British Royal Air Force.
* The Mirage IIIM was a carrier-based variant, with catapult spool and arresting hook, for operation with the French A?ronavale.
* The Mirage IIIW was a lightweight fighter version, proposed for a US competition, with Dassault partnered with Boeing. The aircraft would have been produced by Boeing, but it lost to the Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter.
Balzac / Mirage IIIV
One of the most interesting offshoots of the Mirage III/5/50 fighter family tree was the Mirage IIIV vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) fighter. ("IIIV" is read "three-vee," not "three-five"). This aircraft featured eight small vertical lift jets straddling the main engine. The Mirage IIIV was built in response to a mid-1960s NATO specification for a VTOL strike fighter.
Mirage III & 5 ROSE Program
The ROSE program was launched by the French SAGEM to upgrade the Pakistan Air Force's Mirage III & 5 series. The upgradings took place in three stages - ROSE-I, ROSE-II, and ROSE-III. Approximately 42 Mirage IIIs underwent the ROSE I upgrade which included the addition of the Grifo M radar - which gave the PAF's ROSE I aircraft BVR capability. Under the ROSE-II program at least 40 PAF's Mirage 5 aircraft were upgraded with digital cockpits and FLIR pods; this made the ROSE II an air-to-surface strike-oriented aircraft capable of using H-series precision-guided bombs. The Mirage ROSE III is a follow-up version of the ROSE II, the PAF has 14 ROSE III aircraft in service.
The Mirage fighter aircraft series is featured in the popular French comics Tanguy and Laverdure, primarily authored by Jean-Michel Charlier and illustrated by a few different but named illustrators. The two protagonist, Michel Tanguy and Ernerst Laverdure, are two fighter pilots in the French Air Force and member of the elite White Stork Squadron (L'escadrille des cigognes).
In the beginning of their story, they start as two student pilots flying T-33s, it's not until their fourth adventure when they finally sit in the cockpit of a Mirage IIIC. Later on their fighters are upgraded to Mirage IIIE's and the last adventure saw them flying Mirage 2000's. Tanguy and Laverdure's adventure preceded Top Gun by at least one generation. Their adventures are full of political intrigues, espionage, and the romance of aviation. Until today, there is no English translation of their adventures, the aspiring English reader has to learn French to read the originial French comics. However, the comic has been translated into other languages, such as Indonesian in Indonesia.
The stories were made into the 1967-1969 French TV series Les Chevaliers du Ciel, starring Jacques Santi as "Lt Tanguy" and Christian Marin as "Lt Laverdure". The series was made by ORTF and a version of the show dubbed into English and titled The Aeronauts was shown in the UK by the BBC in the early 1970's.
Source: This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Dassault Mirage III".
Length: 15 m (49 ft 3.5 in)
Wingspan: 8.22 m (26 ft 11 in)
Height: 4.5 m (14 ft 9 in)
Wing area: 34.85 m? (375 ft?)
Empty weight: 7,050 kg (15,600 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 13,500 kg (29,700 lb)
Powerplant: 1? SNECMA Atar 09C turbojet
Thrust with afterburner: 60.8 kN with (13,700 lbf)
Maximum speed: Mach 2.2 (2,350 km/h, 1,460 mph)
Range: 2,400 km (1,300 nm, 1,500 mi)
Service ceiling: 17,000 m (56,000 ft)
Rate of climb: 83.3 m/s (16,400 ft/min)
Wing loading: 387 kg/m? (79 lb/ft?)
* 2? 30 mm (1.18 in) DEFA 552 cannon with 125 rounds each
* One centerline and four underwing pylons for 4,000 kg (8,800 lb) of stores. Initial interceptor armament was one Matra R530 and two AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles (later replaced by Matra Magic R550). Besides general-purpose bombs, a customary typical ground-attack store was the Matra JL-100 drop tank/rocket pack, each containing 19 SNEB 68 mm rockets and 250 liters (66 U.S. gallons) of fuel. Some models equipped to fire AM-39 Exocet anti-ship missile; French AdA IIIEs (through 1991 equipped for AN-52 nuclear bomb).
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