Our Dassault Mirage Scrapbook
Originally designed as a single seat fighter with a secondary bomber role, the French Dassault Mirage family of aircraft was expanded to include advanced fighter-interceptors and pure bomber variants. A pair of these bomber versions could employ nuclear weapons too.
The first Mirage prototype took to the sky in 1954, and several versions were tested before the first production versions, dubbed the Mirage III, were flown in 1956. Several sub-variants of the Mirage III included single seat fighter-interceptors, fighter-bombers, and reconnaissance versions. Two-seat trainer versions of many of these specialized jets were produced as well. The jet had a single afterburning jet engine and a delta wing planform.
The Mirage III was an export success, finding its way in to the air forces of France, Israel, Argentina, South Africa, Brazil, Pakistan, Spain, Australia, and Switzerland. Many airframes received upgrades and modifications (engines, radar and avionics) to remain relevant as air forces around the world added various capabilities and more advanced weapon systems. The Mirage 5 and South Africa’s Atlas Cheetah are examples of these.
A direct successor to the Mirage III family was the Mirage F1, with a more powerful engine and a smaller wing that dispensed with the delta design. Better maneuverability, more fuel load and improved departure performance were realized when the prototype Mirage F1 took off for the first time in 1966. The F1 became France’s front-line interceptor, although ground attack duties were a secondary mission for the airframe. Later, a reconnaissance version was operated by France too. The air forces of Ecuador, Iraq, Morocco, South Africa, Spain, Libya, Greece, Kuwait, Qatar, Gabon and Jordan have operated Mirage F1s, besides France.
The next step for Dassault and for the French Air Force was the Mirage 2000 series of fighter-bombers. The -2000 was designed as a delta-winged fighter-bomber in the early 1970s, as an offshoot of the Panavia Tornado variable geometry wing competition. A dedicated fighter version was the Mirage 2000C, while a bomber version was a two-seat -2000D. A modified version of the 2000D is the 2000N, a nuclear-capable twin seat bomber.
The prototype Mirage 2000 first flew in 1978, while the first 2000C version’s first flight occurred in 1982. Later in 18983, the 2000D and 2000N versions took to the sky for the first time. The Mirage 2000B is a twin-seat trainer version of the -2000C version. The Mirage 2000-5 series of jets are improved variants with better avionics and air refuel capabilities. The Mirage 2000-9 version is an advanced version operated by the UAE, which included updated 2000-5 versions.
Operators of the Mirage 2000 family include France, Egypt, India, Peru, United Arab Emirates, Greece, Taiwan, Qatar and Brazil.
A strategic bomber version of the basic Mirage delta-wing design was planned during the 1950s, and first flew in 1959. It is an enlarged, twin-engine (the only twin jet powered Mirage design), two seat strategic bomber, capable of nuclear strikes. In the mid-1980s, many of the Mirage IVs were modified to carry photo reconnaissance equipment too, and were phased out of the nuclear bomber role by the end of 1996. The final flights of operational Mirage IVs occurred in 2005.
Here’s a photo scrapbook with photos of many of the variants of the Mirage, as well as some of the liveries of several air forces. Credit photographers Ken Middleton, Dion Makowski and Ken Kula for the images.