Dassault Mirage III
From Scramble - The Aviation Magazine
|First Flight (III)||17 November 1956|
|First Flight (5)||19 May 1967|
(incl. Mirage 5)
|Specifications for Mirage IIIE|
|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 m²||375 ft²|
|Empty||7050 kg||15600 lb|
|Maximum takeoff weight||13500 kg||29700 lb|
|Engines||one Snecma Atar 9C turbojet|
|Thrust (AB)||60.8 kN (each)||13700 lbf (each)|
|Maximum speed||2.350 km/h||1,460 mph|
|Operational range||2.400 km||1,500 miles|
|Service ceiling||17.000 m||56,000 ft|
|Rate of climb||5.000 m/min||16,400 ft/min|
In 1953, the French Air Force issued a requirement for a relatively small and light all-weather fighter. It would have to be able to climb to an altitude of 18,000m in under 6 minutes. 25 June 1955 saw the first flight of the first proposal by Dassault, the MD-550 Mystere Delta. The MD-550 was powered by two Armstrong-Siddeley Vipers, with a thrust of 7.8 kN each, which, as Dassault recognised, were insufficient enough to provide the needed thrust. To enhance the climbing ability of the MD-550, a removable fairing with a SEPR-66 rocket was added under the fuselage. Testing the aircraft, now named Mirage I, proved it was to small to be operated adequately and the demanded Mach 2 was not in its reach. A bigger version was designed, named Mirage II, which was to be powered by two Turboméca Gabizo engines, with 10.7 kN thrust each. Design calculations proved this was also insufficient, even with added rocket booster support it would only reach Mach 1.5 instead of the required Mach 2. Because of this the Mirage II never reached production, remaining a “paper” aircraft only. But all of these developments eventually led to the Mirage III.
After a low rate initial production (LRIP) batch of 10 aircraft, the first operational Mirage III's joined the French Air Force early 1960. The design was clearly optimized for high-altitude/high-speed interceptions. At low-level/low-speeds, the Mirage III is less effective. In the early years, it's armament consisted of two GIAT DEFA 550 30 mm guns (with 125 rpg), Matra R.530 radar-guided and/or Matra R.550 Magic infrared guided missiles. Fire control was provided by the Thomson-CSF Cyrano II radar.
In 1953, the Air Force general staff and the authorities, concerned at the rising weight - and cost- of aircraft, began drawing up specifications for a light interceptor. In reply, Dassault submitted its draft project for a Mystère-Delta to the authorities, a single seat delta-plane with twin Turboméca Turboméca Gabizo jet engines with after-burners and an SEPR rockety for substantial extra-power at altitude. One French Air Force program involved a lightweight (5-ton to 6-ton) interceptor it could use on small unprepared airfields. In response to that, GAMD developed a plane using its own funds. The MD.550 was designed in the Saint Cloud plant in early 1953. It was a delta-wing single-seater powered by twin Viper engines. The contract for the design, production and development of two MD 550 (later renamed Mirage I twin-engine rocket-boosted prototypes was made official on March 22, 1953 and first flew June 25, 1955.
The first series of flight tests gave rise to refinements in the aerodynamic configuration. It was clear that the delta fin would have to be changed to a sweptback fin. The side-by-side twin engine configuration also posed some development problems; flanges were added to the rear fuselage, thereby changing the curvature. Alteration work was completed at the beginning of May 1956. With its new sweptback fin (called the F fin) and its modified servo actuator for the elevons, the aircraft was ready to fly again. Also, the aircraft was equipped with an independent dual liquid SEPR 66 booster rocket providing 1,500 kg of thrust over 80 seconds. In order to adapt the aircraft to high Mach speeds and to the Viper reheat engines, the air intakes were redesigned with a smaller cross-section. These alterations made the aircraft heavier, bringing its total empty weight to 3,610 kg. The modified aircraft flew again on May 5, 1956, using for the first time, its after-burners. The MD.550-01 was renamed Mirage I and the MD.550-02 Mirage II. Test flights in Mirage I 01 continued as a back-up to the Mirage IV bomber project until May 1957, when the aircraft was conveyed to Bretigny for storage.
Purpose built test version for the French Air Force. 10 built.
B for Biplace, two seater, lacking the Cyrano II radar and first flown 20 October 1959. Ordered by the French Air Force (43 as Mirage IIIB, Mirage IIIB1, Mirage IIIB2 and 20 as Mirage IIIBE (Mirage IIIE conversin trainer, 3 transferred to Egypt as Mirage 5SDD). A number of French Air Force Mirage IIIBs were modified into Mirage IIIBRV, an aerial refueling trainer. Export models include the Mirage IIIBJ (5 for Israel, 3 transferred to Argentina), Mirage IIIBL (Libanon, 3), Mirage IIIBS (Switzerland, 4), Mirage IIIBV (Venezuela) and Mirage IIIBZ (South Africa, 3).
C for Chasse, the interceptor model. The Snecma Atar 9B, rated at 59 kN, can be augmented for 15 minutes with a SEPR844 rocket pack, providing 13 kN additional thrust. For a typical intercept mission, the Mirage IIIC carried an armament of two GIAT DEFA 30mm cannon, a single Matra Matra R.511 and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Ordered by the French Air Force (95 aircraft) and exported as Mirage IIICJ (Israel, 72, 19 transferred to Argentina), Mirage IIICS (Switzerland, 1) and Mirage IIICZ (South Africa, 16).
Two seat trainer version for the Mirage IIIC, powered by a Snecma Atar 9C turbojet. Produced as Mirage IIIDA (Argentina, 2), Mirage IIIDBR (Brazil, 6, local designation F-103D), Mirage IIIDE (Spain, 6), Mirage IIIDO (Australia, 16), Mirage IIIDP (Pakistan, 5) and Mirage IIIDS (Switzerland, 2). South Africa received the Mirage IIIDZ (3 a/c) and Mirage IIID2Z (11 a/c) models. The latter is fitted with a Atar 9K-50 turbojet, so should be classified as Mirage 50.
Multirole strike version, powered by a Snecma Atar 9B rated at 61 kN and equipped with - for the time - comprehensive Doppler navigation equipment. Delivered to the French Air Force (192 as Mirage IIIE, of which 3 transferred to Egypte as Mirage 5SDE), Mirage IIIEA (Argentina, 17), Mirage IIIEBR (Brazil, 16, local designation F-103E), Mirage IIIEE (Spain, 24), Mirage IIIEL (Libanon, 11), Mirage IIIEP (Pakistan, 18), Mirage IIIEV (Venezuela, 10), Mirage IIIOA (ground-attack model for Australia, 52), Mirage IIIOF (interceptor model for Australia, 48) and the Mirage IIIEZ (South Africa, 17).
Reconnaissance version, based on the Mirage IIIE. The Mirage IIIE's Cyrano II radar was replaced by five OMERA 31 cameras. Following the first flight on 30 October 1961, the French Air Force ordered 50 Mirage IIIRs and 20 Mirage IIIRDs (equipped with infra red detection equipment). Exported as Mirage IIIRP (Pakistan, 13), Mirage IIIDRP (Pakistan, 10), Mirage IIIRS (Switzerland, 18) and to South Africa as the Mirage IIIRZ (4 a/c) and the Atar 9K-50 powered Mirage IIIR2Z (4 a/c).
Export version for the Swiss Air Force, based on the Mirage IIIC. It features strengthened components to meet the requirement of the Swiss Air Force, for the aircraft to operate from small, less sophisticated airfields. Equipped with primarily US avionics, including provisions to launch the Hughes AIM-4 Falcon. 57 ordered.
Developed by Dassault following a Israeli request for a VFR day-only ground-attack version of the Mirage III. The Cyrano II radar was replaced by EMD Aïda range-only radar in a sleeker nose profile, the fuselage was enlarged by 0,51 meter to 15,54 meter and power was provided by a Snecma Atar 9C-3 turbojet (rated at 42 kN military and 58 kN augmented). Most importantly, the internal fuel capacity was increased with 470 litres (providing 3,410 litre internal fuel), which could be augmented with 4,700 litres fuel in external fuel tanks. The Mirage 5 proved to be success and led to many modification and update programs, including the radar system. For example, Mirage 5s were upgraded with the Cyrano IV radar set (taken from the Mirage F1 or the Agava radar (from the Super Etendard, making classification of the Mirage 5 (compared to the Mirage III) a matter of opinion. As a yardstick, Mirage 5s are 0,51 metres longer than the Mirage III and have two additional underwing store stations. In total, 531 Mirage 5s were built, of which 169 delivered with fire control radar (such as the Cyrano or Agave).
The Appui model, delivered as Mirage 5COA (Colombia, 14), Mirage 5AD (Abu Dhabi, 12), Mirage 5E2 (16 for Egypte with Sagem Uliss 81 INS and Thomson-CSF TMV630 LRMTS), Mirage 5F (58 for French Air Force taken from the cancelled Isreali Mirage 5J order), Mirage 5G and Mirage 5G2 (3 and 4 for Gabon), Mirage 5D (Libya, 53), Mirage 5PA (Pakistan, 28), Mirage 5V (Venezuela, 4) and Mirage 5M (Zaire, 14). Belgium received 63 Mirage 5BAs with primarily US avionics, including Loral Report II RHAWR. A number of Mirage 5BAs were upgraded in the Mirage Safety Improvent Program (MIRSIP). Modified aircraft were however sold to Chile as Mirage 5M Elkan.
Two seat conversion trainer, delivered as Mirage 5DAD (Abu Dhabi, 3), Mirage 5BD (Belgium, 16), Mirage 5COD (Colombia, 2), Mirage 5SDD (3 for Egypt, paid for by Saudi Arabia), Mirage 5DG (Gabon, 4), Mirage 5DD (Libya, 15), Mirage 5DPA2 (Pakistan, 2), Mirage 5DP (5 for Peru plus a unknown number as Mirage 5DP1 and Mirage 5DP3 fitted with Cyrano IV and Agave radar respectively), Mirage 5DV (Venezuela, 2) and Mirage 5DM (Zaire, 3). The Mirage 5DJ (for Israel) was cancelled.
Radar equipped Mirage 5s are generally referred to as Mirage 5E. Known models are the Mirage 5EAD (Abu Dhabi, 14), Mirage 5SDE (51 for Egypt, equipped with Cyrano IV, paid for by Saudi Arabia), Mirage 5DE (Libya, 32), Mirage 5PA2 and Mirage 5PA3 (Pakistan, 30, equipped with Cyrano IVM and Agave radar respectively), Mirage 5P3 (Peru, 30, with Cyrano IV) and Mirage 5P4 (Peru, Agave equipped). During the Falklands War, around ten P3/4s were transferred from Peru to Argentina.
Reconnaissance version, delivered as Mirage 5RAD (Abu Dhabi, 3), Mirage 5BR (Belgium, 27), Mirage 5COR (Colombia, 2), Mirage 5SDR (Egypt, 6) and Mirage 5DR (Lybia, 10).
The Mirage 50 is a Mirage 5 fitted with the more powerful Atar 9K-50 engine. The additional 12 kN thrust reduces the take-off run with 10 to 20% and, according to Dassault, and also improves climb rate (up to 35%) and sustained turn rate (STR). The Mirage 50 could be delivered with or without radar, making identification quite difficult. An identification point can be the splitter plate leading edge, which differs from the Mirage III and Mirage 5. In total, only 19 Mirage 50s were built.
The first customer for the Mirage 50 was Chile which ordered 14 (probably EMD Agave) radar equipped Mirage 50FC (plus two two-seat Mirage 50DCH trainers) aircraft. The first eight supplied in 1980 as Mirage 50FCs were, in fact, refurbished and re-engined ex-French Air Force Mirage 5Fs. The remaining six single-seaters which followed in 1982-83 were new-build Mirage 50CHs, these and the earlier Mirage 50FCs were upgraded in the early 'nineties by ENAER Mirage 50CN Pantera.
In July 1989, Chile ordered 6 canard equipped Mirage 50EVs and 3 ex-French Air Force Mirage 5Fs, to be upgraded to the same standard. The aircraft are fitted with Thomson-CSF Cyrano IV radar, Thomson-CSF HUD, IFF, [[ECM and chaff/flare dispensers. The sole Mirage 50DV dual deater lacked the radar equipment. The 6th new built Mirage 50EV was delivered in 1991 and concluded Mirage III/5/50 production with 1,422 aircraft delivered.
License built and special versions
In 1963, the Air Force general staff worked out the specifications for a low-altitude, all-weather aircraft capable of supersonic interception, and suitable for use on short runways with limited equipment, at an approach velocity of less than 140 knots (260km/hr). On November 21, 1963, the Dassault corporation signed the development contract for a prototype aircraft, the Mirage IIIF equipped with a TF106 turbofan engine. The delta wing was replaced by a high, sharply sweptback and lift augmented wing. The stabilizers were mounted low on the fuselage wich was a first for the corporation. In 1965, the DMA ordered three two-seat Mirage F2 prototypes for the Air Force. Israel, which was looking for a low-altitude aircraft able to penetrate up to 800 km (431 nm), took an interest in the project but the deal fell through. On June 12, 1966, at Istres, Jean Coureau took off in Mirage III F2 01 equipped with a TF 30 jet engine. It was the first corporation aircraft in which trial flight data was transmitted by telemetry, increasing the aid the trial team could offer the pilot, and thus improving the security and continuity of trials. On December 29, it achieved Mach 2 and made a landing in 480 m. See also Dassault Mirage F1.
NG for Nouvelle Generation. Upgraded airframe and avionics, equipped with canards and fly-by-wire flight controls. Production was limited to the conversion of Mirage 50 prototype No.1.
Dassault testbed to support the Balzac/Mirage IIIV program, powered a 62 kN rated Snecma modified Pratt & Whitney JTF10 turbofan, designated TF104 (rated at 49 kN), later replaced by the more powerful TF106 (rated at 73.5 kN). The development of these engines was problematic: they frequently stalled on take-off, leaving test pilot Jean Coureau to make his own way back…on foot.
VTOL variant, powered by one TF106 engine (rated at 74.5 kN) and eight Rolls-Royce RB.162-1 units, each rated at 15.7 kN. The first prototype made its initial transition to forward flight in March 1966. It later attained Mach 1.32 in test flights. The Mirage IIIV was about twice as big as the normal Mirage III. Only 2 prototypes built.
VTOL version of the Mirage IIIA equipped with no less than nine engines: a single Bristol-Siddeley Orpheus turbojet rated at 21.6 kN and eight Rolls-Royce RB.108-1 turbojet lift engines each rated at 9.6 kN. A prototype Mirage IIIA was rebuilt for the Balzac V project but after two crashes the project was cancelled. During a test flight in 1964 it crashed, killing the pilot. It was repaired and crashed again, this time it was written off, killing another pilot. Its successor, the Mirage IIIV, was also unsuccessful and the project was cancelled. The Balzac's wing bears a striking resemblance to the later Mirage 2000.
At the end of 1967, in response to the Swiss Air Force’s call for a tactical support aircraft more manoeuvrable than the Mirage III. Dassault and the F+W Emmen at Emmen (Switzerland) decided to build small retractable surfaces into the nose cone of the Mirage. These whiskers reduced the take off distance, increased the payload, allowed for steeper banking along valleys and lowered the approach speed (by 20 knots). After promising wind-tunnel trails, Mirage 5J n°2 –christened “Asterix” for that cartoon’s character famous moustache- with its whiskers in fixed position but adjustable by increments of 10°, made its first flight at Melun-Villaroche on September 27, 1968, piloted by Jean-Marie Saget. Mirage III R n° 344 renamed Milan 01 was fitted with retractable whiskers. Flight tests began on May 24, 1969. Dassault then produced the final version using the airframe of Mirage III R n°589 and an Atar 9K-50 70.6 kN engine. The aircraft was equipped with a weapons system based on the Jaguar’ (similar to that of the Mirage IIIE) with some new equipment elements. The maiden flight of the Milan took place at Melun-Villaroche on May 29, 1970 with Guy Mitaux-Maurouard in the pilot seat. The aircraft was presented at the Swiss tactical support aircraft competition. At Emmen on May 2, 1972, Milan S 01 jousted with the A-7 Corsair II. The match, however, was a draw; in the end, Switzerland decided to prolong the life of its Hawker Hunters and buy F-5E Tiger IIs. The contest nonetheless brought home the advantage of having a weapons system based on the use of an inertial computer and head-up sights. Immediately on its return to France, the Milan was equipped with an inertial system and a cathode sight unit. It served to define the architecture of the modern weapons system which were to equip the export versions of the Mirage F1, the Mirage F1CR and the Super Etendard.
Due to political reasons Israel was not allowed to take delivery of the ordered Mirage 5J. This prompted the development of Israel's own Mirage, the Nesher (Eagle). It was derived from the Mirage IIIC and produced as Nesher A (single seater, 50 built, of which 26 transferred to Argentina as Dagger A) and Nesher B (dual seater, 6 built, of which 3 transferred to Argentina as Dagger B). The Nesher was successfully operated during the 1973 Yom Kippur war, claiming over 100 kills. The Nesher was also exported, Argentina took delivery of 61 aircraft and named the aircraft Dagger. Nesher production was just the prelude to a much more sophisticated project, the Kfir.
Export name for the Nesher, exported to Argentina (see Nesher section). The Finger is a local Argentinian development of the Dagger, to upgrade the aircraft similar to Kfir C2 standards.
South Africas Atlas company upgraded Mirage III airframes. Similar but not equal to the Kfir upgrades of Argentina and Chile.
Unsolicited proposal to upgrade Belgian Mirage 5s with the Atar 9K-50 turbojet, improved nav/attack system. Cancelled.
Canard equipped Mirage 50, frst flown 27 May 1981.
Upgraded model, first flown on 21 December 1982, with avionics taken from the Mirage F1 and Mirage 2000. Presented during Le Bourget 1987, but bearing a striking resemblance to the earlier Mirage IIING.
- Dassault Aviation Mirage 5 page
- Dassault Aviation Mirage 5 page
- Dassault Aviation Mirage 50 page
- Wikipedia Mirage III
- Mirage 5F Photo Gallery
- Dassault Milan page