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Category: Air support/recent

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Mirage Fighter

This is a model IIIRS ,Swiss Air Force plane, similar to but not exactly the same as the Australian model.

A3 Dassault/GAF Mirage III

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 F-104 Starfighter.


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 A3-110.

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.

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