A3 Dassault/GAF Mirage
The search for a Sabre replacement
began in the fifties, and when a joint evaluation team from the
Departments of Air and Supply visited Europe and North America in1960,
the Dassault Mirage III emerged as their selection over the Lockheed
|This is not an
Australian Mirage cockpit but gives an indication of the
complexity the pilot faces.
Built by the French firm Generale
Aeronautique Marcel Dassault (GAMD), the Mirage I had flown on June 25
1955, followed the following year by the prototype Mirage III. Having
selected the Mirage, the RAAF then had to decide on the power plant, and
with the Rolls Royce Avon already in service powering both the Sabre and
the Canberra, this option was pursued for the Mirage. A French Mirage
IIIA, known as "City of Hobart", was fitted with an RB146 Avon
67 turbojet and flew on February 13 1961. This was known as a Mirage
IIIO, but did not receive an RAAF serial number as, although this
modification delivered superior performance, its cost was prohibitive
and this project discontinued.
Having selected the French SNECMA Atar
9C engine, the first RAAF aircraft, numbered A3-1, flew at Bordeaux on
March 14 1963 and was handed over to the RAAF at Villaroche, near Paris,
on April 9. This definitive IIIO was similar to the French Air Force
Mirage IIIE and while A3-1 was flown to Australia by Hercules, the
second French-built aircraft, A3-2, remained in France until August 1965
to test the various RAAF modification. Meanwhile two further aircraft
were shipped to Australia as fully equipped major assemblies and
completed at Avalon by the Government Aircraft Factories (GAF), the
Australian prime contractor. The first of these, A3-3, was flown by Sqn
Ldr (later AVM) Bill Collings at Avalon on November 16 1963.
Gradually the French content was
reduced with GAF subcontracting the wings, tail and engine to the
Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC), and by aircraft, A3-16, the
first Australian built primary parts were incorporated. The first order
of December 1960 for 30 aircraft, A3-1 to A3-30, was followed in 1962
for a further 30 A3-31 to A3-60. By 1963 the order was increased by
another 40, A3-61 to A3-100, followed by 10 two seat trainers, similar
to the French Mirage IIIB and designated IIID, serialised A3-101 to
Following the two French aircraft, the
first 48 Australian assembled aircraft (A3-3 to A3-50) were built as
Mirage IIIO(F) interceptors and No 2 OCU at Williamtown began receiving
deliveries in 1964. No 75 Squadron became the first operational unit to
equip in 1965 followed by No 76 Sqn in 1966. The next 50 aircraft (A3-51
to A3-100) were built as IIIO(A) ground attack variants with slightly
different radar and the addition of doppler navigation and radar
altimeters for low level operation. In 1967 No 75 Sqn deployed to
Malaysia to replace No 3 Sqn. No 3 Sqn then became the first unit to
equip with the ground attack Mirage under Wg Cdr Jake Newham, who was
later to be CAS. When 3 Sqn returned to Butterworth in 1969, 77 Sqn
re-equipped and became the fourth RAAF Mirage squadron.
The first two seater Mirage IIID,
A3-101, flew on October 6 1966 and was accepted by the RAAF at Avalon on
November 10, followed by a further nine over the next year. The trainer
version deleted the Cyrano II nose radar, a second cockpit was added
behind the first and the avionics equipment previously stored there was
relocated in the nose. The Mirage trainers were assembled for the RAAF
by GAF from imported French built fuselages and CAC built wings and
vertical tail surfaces.
In December 1970 the Government
approved the procurement of six additional Mirage IIID trainers at a
cost of $11 M. These aircraft, A3-111 to A3-116 delivered from August
1973 to January 1974, enabled the retirement of the Sabre from
operational fighter training.
An anomaly in Mirage deliveries
occurred with A3-26. This aircraft was retained in France by Dassault
from 1965 to 1968 as a trials installation for the IIIO(A) standard. The
aircraft was finally delivered to 2 OCU in November 1968 and the
following June it was decided to convert the remaining IIIO(F) aircraft
to the IIIO(A) standard for the ground attack role.
With defence cuts under the Whitlam
Labour Government, No 76 Squadron was disbanded amongst much ill feeling
in August 1973. The remaining three squadrons continued operating the
Mirage in air defence and ground attack based at Williamtown and
Butterworth. Several Mirage aerobatics teams were also formed during its
service with 77 Squadron. Best known were the Deltas in 1971, followed
by the Miracles in 1976 and a three man team of red, white and blue
aircraft organised for the 1981 air shows. Basing of aircraft extended
to Darwin in 1983 when 75 Sqn relocated from Butterworth.
As 2 OCU began to work-up for the
Hornet in 1984, all Williamtown based Mirages were transferred to 77
Sqn, with some 40 of the type on strength. This must have made 77 Sqn
the largest fighter squadron ever in the RAAF. No 77 finally
relinquishing their Mirages for Hornets in November 1987. In March 1986
79 Squadron reformed at Butterworth from 3 Sqn as the latter began
conversion to the Hornet. 79 Sqn operated the Mirage until disbanding in
April 1988, leaving 75 Squadron at Darwin and ARDU at Edinburgh as the
remaining operators. In early September 1988, 75 Squadron flew a
formation of Mirages over the east coast capitals as a farewell gesture
before the aircraft ceased squadron operations on September 30. In
October the remaining 75 Sqn Mirages were ferried to Woomera and so
appropriately this Squadron, which was the first to equip with the
Mirage in 1966, was the last to operate it.
The last RAAF Mirage flight was on
February 8 1989 when A3-101 was flown from ARDU at Edinburgh to Woomera
to join 47 of the type in storage pending their disposal. In 1990
Pakistan purchased fifty RAAF Mirages, including two which had been
stored at Point Cook, and these have now been delivered to the PAF,
where some will undoubtedly fly for many years to come.
The Mirage saw longer service in our
front line than any other fighter. Despite the original estimated design
fatigue life of only 1500 hours, some Australian Mirages flew over 4000
hours. Over forty aircraft were lost in flying accidents, but the type
was held in high regard by those who flew it. Although the
"Miracle" has left our skies, many examples remain in
Australia. Two Mirages are on display at Fighterworld at RAAF
Williamtown: A3-3, the first Australian assembled aircraft which last
flew in 1987, has been restored as a silver aircraft of 76 Sqn, and
A3-102 as a camouflaged example of 2 OCU. A3-100 of 75 Sqn is at Darwin,
and A3-59 of 79 Sqn is a gate guard at Butterworth. A3-20 and A3-44 are
used at RAAF Kingswood as training aids, 3AD at Amberley hold A3-55, and
RSTT at Wagga maintain A3-42 and A3-72 as complete airframes with A3-41,
which at one time was to have gone to Singapore. A3-45 is on display at
ASTA (ex GAF) at Fishermen's Bend and A3-115 is held by DSTO's
Surveillance Research Laboratory at Salisbury, South Australia Other
examples can be found at the RAAF Museum, Air World at Wangaratta and
Classic Jet Fighter Museum in South Australia.
(Dassault/GAF Mirage IIIO)
DESCRIPTION: Single seat
interceptor/ground attack fighter.
POWER PLANT: One 13,670 lb thrust
SNECMA Atar 9C turbojet with afterburner.
DIMENSIONS: Length 15.03m (49ft
4in); wingspan 8.22m (27 ft); height 4.5m (14ft 9in).
WEIGHTS: Empty 7049kg (15,540 lb);
max. 13,699kg (30,200 lb).
PERFORMANCE: Max speed Mach 2.2;
Mach 1.14 (1390kmh 863mph) at sea level: ferry range 2085nm (3862km).
ARMAMENT: One Matra R530 and either
two Sidewinder AIM-9B or two Matra R550 Magic air-to-air missiles and
twin 30mm DEFA cannon. Ground attack weapons such as six Mk 82 500 lb
bombs or three GBU-12 laser guided bombs.
text from http://www.raafmuseum.com.au/research/aircraft/a3series/mira.htm