Dassault-Brequet Mirage III
Role: fighter, fighter-bomber
Builder: Dassault Aviation (later Dassault-Brequet Aviation)
Variants: IIIA, IIIC, IIICJ, IIICZ, IIIE, IIIEA, IIIEO, IIIEBR (F-103E), IIIEE, IIIEL, IIIEP, IIIS, IIIEV, 5F, 5BA, 5COA, 5AD, 5G, 5D, 5PA, 5P, 5M, 50C, IIIR, IIIRZ, 5BR, 5COR, 5SDR, IIIRP, IIIRS, IIIB, IIIBE, IIIBZ, IIIDA, IIID, 5BD, IIIDBR (F-103D), 5COD, IIIEE, 5DG, IIIDP, 5DP3, IIIDS, 50DV, Nesher S/T, Dagger A/B, Cheetah B/C/D/E, Pantera 50C, IIIK, IIIM, IIIW, IIIV, Balzac V (variant list is under construction)
Operators: See Operator List
The Mirage dynasty began in the fifties, when the ArmÃ©e de l'Air (French Air Force) requested a light and fast jet fighter with all weather combat capacity. One of the main requirements of the French Air Force was an aircraft capable to reach Mach 2 in level flight, the magic number for the epoch. The priority was the speed in sacrifice of the manoeuvrability, as the primary mission of the aircraft would be to intercept Russians bombers flying high and fast.
To attend the ArmÃ©e de l'Air requirements, the Marcel Dassault company presented the project MD.550, a delta wing configuration, with a 5% chord (ratio of airfoil thickness to length) and 60 degree sweep and fitted with two Rolls Royce Viper turbojets, each with 790Kg thrust and one 14.7 kN (1,500 kgp) thrust SEPR 66 liquid-fuel rocket motor to provided additional burst power. Named Mirage I, the MD.550 flew for first time in June 25, 1955 and the prototype attained Mach 1.3 in level flight without the SEPR 66 rocket motor, and Mach 1.6 with the rocket lit in late 1955.
Dassault then considered a somewhat bigger version, the "Mirage II", with a pair of Turbomeca Gabizo turbojets, but this aircraft was ever built. With the Mirage II project abandoned, the Dassault engineers used the preview experience with the MD.550 and designed a bigger aircraft designed latter Mirage III-001. The new aircraft received one SNECMA Atar 101G afterburning turbojet, with 4.500Kg of thrust and a new wing, based on the Â“area-rulingÂ”, a revolution at that time. The Mirage III-001 first flew on November 18, 1956 and on January 27, 1957 the aircraft reached Mach 1.8 in level flight.
However, to reach the speed of Mach 2 many modifications were necessary. The wing was redesigned and the aircraft fitted with one SNECMA Atar 9B with 6.000 Kg thrust and the SEPR 841 liquid-fuel rocket motor with 1.689Kg of auxiliary thrust. The new aircraft received the designation Mirage IIIA and 10 units were produced. These were almost two meters longer (6.6 feet) than the Mirage III prototype, had a wing with 17.3% more area and the chord reduced to 4.5%.The aircraft were fitted with Thompson-CSF Cyrano Ibis air intercept radar, operational avionics, and a drag chute to shorten landing roll. In May 12, 1958 the first Mirage IIIA (number 01) made its first flight and, in October of the same year, it reached Mach 2 in level flight without the SEPR 841 rocket engine. The Mirage IIIA was the first European aircraft to exceed Mach 2 in level flight
The Mirage IIIC
The Mirage IIIA led to the next variant to be produced, named Mirage IIIC and followed by its training and conversion version, the two-seat Mirage IIIB. Almost identically to the Mirage IIIA, the C version was almost half meter (1.6 feet) longer and was fitted with the SNECMA Atar 9B-3 turbojet engine with 6.200Kg thrust, featuring an "eyelet" style variable exhaust.. The armament consisted of two 30mm revolver type cannons DEFA 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 an AAM missile.
In total, 95 Mirage IIICs and 64 Mirage IIIBs were ordered by the ArmÃ©e de L'Air, with the deliveries beginning in July 1961. The type was also exported to Switzerland; South Africa and Israel. The export Mirage IIICs were given modified designations, depending on the customer, with a suffix letter added as a country code. For example, the Israeli Mirage IIIC was a "Mirage IIICJ", while the South African machines were designated "Mirage IIICZ" and the Swiss machines were designated "Mirage IIICS". The ArmÃ©e de LÂ’Air used his IIICs until 1988, when the last operational aircraft where retired.
In 1967 the Israelis used their Mirage IIICJ fighters against his neighbours enemies on the "Six-Day War". On the morning of June 5, 1967, the Heyl Ha` Avir (Israeli Air Force) performed pre-emptive strikes on the Syrian, Egyptian and Jordanian air forces, destroying aircrafts on the ground with cannon fire and breaking up runways with French "runway dibber" bombs. This was a major advertisement to the French fighter, and it helped the Mirage III became an export success.
The IIIE version
With the Mirage IIIC in production, Dassault was also considering a multi-role / strike variant of the aircraft, which eventually materialized as the "Mirage IIIE". The Mirage IIIE was the last version to be produced and the first of three prototypes flew on April 1, 1961.
The most obviously difference of the Mirage IIIE from the IIIC is an extension of 30 centimetres (1 foot) on the forward fuselage, increasing in this way the size of the avionics bay behind the cockpit. The fuel capacity was also increased 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.
The Mirage IIIE received the Thompson-CSF Cyrano II dual mode air / ground radar; a radar warning receiver (RWR) system with the antennas mounted in the tailfin; and an Atar 09C engine, with an afterburning thrust of 60.8 kN (6,200 kgp) with a petal-style variable exhaust. The Mirage IIIE carried twin 30 mm DEFA-552 cannon, and also had five stores pylons, with a total store capacity of 4.000Kg.
Depending on its variant, many Mirage IIIE were also fitted with a Marconi continuous-wave Doppler navigation radar radome on the bottom of the fuselage, under the cockpit. Optional equipment was a HF antenna that was fitted as a forward extension to the tailfin. On some Mirages, the leading edge of the tailfin was a straight line, while on those with the HF antenna the leading edge had a sloping extension forward.
The ArmÃ©e de l'Air received its first Mirage IIIEs in January 1964, and a total of 192 aircraft entered in French service while 331 more aircraft were exported. The customers were Argentina, Brazil, Lebanon, Pakistan, South Africa, Spain, and Venezuela.
Other Mirage III variants built include the reconnaissance dedicated Mirage IIIR, the optimised ground attack version Mirage 5, which basically was a IIIE without the radar and few avionics with bigger fuel capacity, and upgraded Mirage 50. Also, Israel developed its own variant of the Mirage 5, the IAI Nesher, 51 Nesher S and ten Nesher T two-seat trainers were built and later exported as Dagger A/B. In Israeli service the Nesher was succeeded by the Mirage 5 derived, J79 powered IAI Kfir.