Dassault Miarge 3/5

Country of Origin: France.
Type: 3 - Multirole Fighter: 5 - Ground attack aircraft.
Powerplants: One 41.2kN (9435lb) dry and 60.8kN (13,670lb) afterburning SNECMA Atar 9C turbojet.
Performance: Max speed 2350km/h (1268kt), cruising speed at 36,000ft 955km/h (516kt). Time to 26,090ft 3min 0sec. Service ceiling 55,775ft. Ferry range with three drop tanks 4000km (2150nm) Combat radius on a hi-lo-hi attack mission 1200km (647nm).
Weights: Empty 7050kg (15,542lb), max takeoff 13,7000kg (30,205lb).
Accommodations: Pilot only, except in tandem in two-seaters.
Armament: Two 30mm DEFA 552A cannons in lower fuselage. 3 - Four underwing and one centerline hardpoints can carry 4000kg (8818lb) of armaments, including one radar-guided Matra R.350 AAM, Matra R.550 or AIM-9 infrared guided AAMs, AS 30 and AS 37 ASMs, bombs and rockets. 5 - can carry upto 4000kg (8818lb) of armament on four under wing and three underfuselage hardpoints, comprising rockets, bombs, and infrared AAMs. Venezuelan and some Pakistani aircraft can fire AM 39 Exocet anti shipping missiles.
Operators: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Pakistan, Peru, Switzerland, UAE, Venezuela.
History: The Mirage name was applied to a design to meet the French requirement for a high speed interceptor. The prototype Mirage III-001 flew for the first time on November 17 1956 and later became the first European aircraft to reach Mach 2. Ten pre-production Mirage IIIAs were built before the Mirage IIICs were delivered in July 1961. They were also sold to Israel, South Africa and Argentina. The equivalent two seater is the IIIB.

The multirole Mirage IIIE retains the Thomson-CSF Cyrano II radar but has nav/attack avionics and Doppler navgation radar (in a bulge beneath the cockpit), while French aircraft have the capability to carry AN 52 nuclear bomb. The two seat IIID does not have the Cyrano radar.

Mirage IIIE was a considerable success and were built in Australia (as IIIO) and Switzerland (as IIIS). The reconnaisance Mirage IIIR is based on the IIIE but features cameras (no radar) in a modified nose.

Dassault developed the Mirage 5 at the request of Israel, who was seeking a low cost, day ground attack fighter version of the Mirage III. First flown in May 1969, Mirage 5 originally differed from the Mirage IIIE in the deletion of the Cyrano radar, which allowed simplified avionics to be carried in a slimmer nose and creating extra space for internal fuel, and the addition of two hardpoints under the fuselage. France's then president embargoed the delivery of the 50 Mirage 5Js to Israel and instead these were inducted in the Armee de I'Air as Mirage 5Fs. Other export customers were soon attracted to the Mirage 5 and in all 525 were built.

The Mirage 5 was offered with increasingly more sophisticated avionics and systems (including ranging radar and laser rangefinders) as production progressed, and a number were fitted with lightweight Cyrano IV, Agave or Aida 2 radars.

The last major production version was the Mirage 50, which features a 20% more powerful Atar AK-50 turbojet, as fitted on the Mirage F1. The only customers were Chile and Venezuela. Dassault also offers 50M as an upgrade of existing Mirage IIIs and 5s.

Operational serivce with PAF: The continuing US F-16 embargo, and inability to afford the desired purchase of Mirage 2000-5s, has forced the Pakistan Air Force to substantially augment its fleet of older Mirage IIIs. This has made Pakistan the only country in the world with the most number of marques of Mirage 3/5 in its air force.

About 16 of its original 23 (13 Mirage IIIEP all-weather low-altitude attack fighters and three IIIDP tandem two-seat trainers) still equip the service's No. 5 Squadron at Rafiqui. The fighters' Thomson-CSF Cyrano II fire-control and ground-mapping radar, GEC-Marconi Doppler radar, and navigation/bombing computers will be replaced by a new SAGEM weapon delivery, navigation, and reconnaissance system, known as MAESTRO (modular avionics enhancement system targeted for retrofit operations), to extend their air-to-air performance and provide air-to-ground attack capability. A new FIAR Grifo M multimode pulse-Doppler radar will also be installed. The same upgrade will be applied to 17 former Spanish and nine ex-Lebanese Mirage IIIEs acquired recently; additional two-seaters have also been obtained from France (six), Spain (five), and Lebanon (one).

Pakistan's first 3 photo reconnaissance Mirage IIIRPs were delivered in 1969. Ten more were ordered in 1975 and four more from the Australian order joined the squadron in the 1992. These 15 continue in service alongside Mirage IIIEPs and DPs with No. 5 Squadron of the Pakistan Air Force at Rafiqui. The IIIRP is basically similar to the IIIE fighter except for an extended nose containing five Omera Type 31 cameras instead of a Cyrano fire-control radar. These can be mounted in various arrangements to provide day or night photography at low, medium, or high altitude. The two 30-mm guns and air-to-ground weapon capability of the IIIE are retained. Later upgrades include a dorsal antenna for a radar warning receiver.

Pakistan Air Force is the only south Asian dedicated combat unit to operate Mirage 5s.Versions of this single-seat ground-attack development of the Mirage III fighter flown by No. 8 Squadron of the Pakistan Air Force, at Masroor, are land-attack 5PA2s and maritime-attack 5PA3s. No. 22 Squadron, the Mirage OCU (operational conversion unit), at the same base has 5PAs and two two-seat 5DPA2s. Other 5PAs equip the Mirage Squadron of the Combat Commanders' School at Sargodha.

Pakistan's 5PA2s have Cyrano IV multimission radar; the 5PA3s are equipped with Agave radar for compatibility with Exocet antiship missiles. About 40 5PAs and 5PA2s, and 10 5PA3s, are currently operational.

Australian Mirages
On 24 April 1990, the Australian Defence Ministry announced the sale of fifty used Mirage fighters and spares to Pakistan for A$36 million. There were concerns among ministers and senior officials that this could be politically embarrassing for Australians, as the Indian Government was, true to its usual form, sure to raise a hue and cry over the proposed sale.

The Indian High Commissioner issued a statement the same evening saying, 'The sale will not contribute to stabilization of the situation in South Asia which is the stated aim of Australian policy towards the region.' The statement also added that the aircraft had a lethal potential and the sale would hardly send a message of restraint to Pakistan. Next, the High Commissoner choose to speak on TV and radio channels and he tried to portray Pakistan as the mastermind behind the freedom movement in Kashmir. He expressed the view that the sale of Mirages to Pakistan would put Pakistan at an advantage vis-a-vis India.

This generated a debate in the Australian media about the timing of the sale and its possible reprecussions. The media enlisted the views of the government, opposition leaders, and defence analysts. A foreign Affairs spokesman said, 'The Indian Government had been kept fully informed of the negotiations by the Australian High Commissioner in New Delhi as well as through the Canberra mission. Both India and Pakistan had been told that the contract would be reviewed if there was any outbreak of hostilities between the countries. We can understand Indian concern but we have at all times kept them informed. The aircraft were sold by tender after being advertised worldwide in a purely commercial exercise.' The Australian Prime Minister also said that in case hostilities broke out, the sale could be reviewed.

Almost all the defence analysts interviewed by the press and the electronic media, were unanimous in their view that the sale would not affect the balance between Pakistan and India as the latter already enjoyed military superiority over Pakistan. The Pakistan Embassy in Canberrra also took timely and effective action to counter the Indian propoganda.

A Pakistani team was sent to Australia to inspect the aircraft. All these planes had been protected from corrosion in three different hangers. Originally purchased at A$11 million each when new, the Mirages remained in service from the early 1960s until November 1987, when they began to be mothballed and replaced by F-18s. The package, apart from the fifty Mirages, consisted of aircraft engines, drop tanks, ground support equipment, and manufacturing raw material and spares. After Pakistan decided to avail of this attractive opportunity, Air Chief Marshal Hakimullah formed a project team on 12 April 1990 to oversee and manage the entire process of induction of these aircraft into the PAF. The contract was signed on 15 April 1990 for A$27 million, with the payment spread over a seven year period at an average rate of A$3.5 million a year. The PAF budget had to share 50 per cent of the cost of this acquistion, with the rest coming from government sources

The consignment was transported from Australia to Pakistan on a Pakistan Navy vessel. From the Karachi harbour to PAF Base Masroor, the entire load was conveyed on trailers specially hired from civilian sources. Parking places for the aircraft, and hangers to house the bulky containers were made available at the Base. Then came the evaluation and inspection of the aircraft, stores, and equipment, as well as the modification status and history of lifted components. PAF Base Masroor was initially selected to recover these Mirages. However, it was later realized that the facilities at Masroor were not adequate; therefore, the whole programme was shifted to Kamra in January 1991.

The aircraft were dismantled and transported in C-130s to PAC Kamra, where according to the directive of the CAS, the aircraft were systematically inspected and serviced at the Mirage Rebuild Factory (MRF). Inspection at the MRF revealed that all the Mirages did not require a complete overhaul. A new 2P+ inspection was devised, which extended the life of the aircraft before reaching the General Overhaul (GOH) stage. Those already nearing the GOH stage were put through this inspection. For this purpose, the MRF had to operate six docks and work on a two-shift basis for an early recovery of the aircraft. Any additional manpower required by PAC Kamra to complete the manning requirements of the second shift was provided by the PAF. The Ministry of Defence provided extra funds required for this recovery effort.

A team of engineering officers from the PAF and PAC was formed to carry out a comparative analysis of the maintenance concepts followed by the PAF and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) for the Mirage Weapons System. A comprehensive report was thus put up for streamlining and standardizing the maintenance practices in the PAF. It was initially decided that out of fifty aircraft, twenty would be recovered. The Air Staff decided to get the remaining aircraft repaired by buying the parts required for replacement. The aircraft wings had limited life. By fitting used wings on those aircraft, which were available for sale in France, South Africa and other countries, the PAF could recover as many as forty-five aicraft. The Air Staff decided to exercise this option and a target was set for the recovery of the planes. Both the options i.e. modifying the existing wongs or replacing them with used wings, were studied. Finally, the PAF managed to procure fourteen wings in 1992 at a very low price.

To operate these aircraft after recovery was quite a risk. Therefore, a lot of maintenance and quality assurance processes had to be introduced to make sure that the first aircraft to be flown completely satisfied the pilots. Both the French and Australian components were studied at the Component Wing, MRF Kamra, and the life of each component was fixed in a manner that was both economical and safe for the PAF.

The second major problem faced by the PAF was recovery of the engines that had been grounded for five years before. It was, therefore, decided to carry out a major inspection on these engines at Sargodha and Masroor. After the engines passed the initial test, they were sent to Kamra, which had the advanced test bed facility to check the operation of the components as well. During this process, about 20 per cent of the engines were rejected.

Out of a total of forty-five aircraft recovered, thirty-three were given the 2P+ inspection, which is a lower level inspection than the General Overhaul; and the remaining twelve aircraft underwent General Overhaul. All thirty-three aircraft were upgraded with the latest standard avionics package and later improved with additional upgradations. The avionics upgrade project named the 'Retrofit of Strike Element' (ROSE was conceived in 1992 and commenced effectually from April 1995. The avionics package included Inertial Navigation System, Head Up Display, Airborne Video Tape Recording System, and self protection systems like RWR, Chaff and Flares. A modern airborne radar, the Griffo-M was also retorfitted. When the Americans released 360 AIM-9L missiles under the Brown Amendment, it was decided that the Mirages being upgraded and equipped with the Griffo-M radar must also be made capable of carrying the AIM-9L missiles. The hardware modification of this project had been completed, but its software was under development. The SAGEM company, which was carrying out the upgradation of the Mirages, had developed their own Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) Pod. They needed to carry out the proto-typing of this equipment on an aircraft, free of cost, so that if found fit, the PAF could buy them. FLIR modification on these aircraft was also in progress.

Of the forty-five aircraft eventually recovered at PAC Kamra, there were seven dual-seat models that were allotted to No. 5 Squadron. Out of the forty-two single-seat Mirages, thirty-two with ROSE configuration, were allotted to No. 7 and CCS Squadrons. Four aircraft belonging to Photo Reconnaissance category and an additional aircraft were recovered and allotted to the No. 5 Squadron. One aircraft crahsed prior to ROSE modification and the remaininf five aircraft were found beyond recovery and were reduced to spares.

French Mirages
In the second half of 1992, the PAF had a genuine concern over the gap that would be created by the phasing out of the A-5s in 1997. After considering various courses, the purchase and re-lifting of some used Mirages seemed a practical option. The sources included Belgium, Spain, France, Lebanon and Zaire. In 1995, the planners at Air Headquarters established an operational requirement for at least fifty such aircraft. On the directive of the CAS, the feasibility of a package of forty Mirages was validated and the case for allocation of funds was taken up. The government released the necessary funds.

In order to reliably assess the physical condition of these Mirages, a PAF team visited Spain, France and Lebanon, while the Air Attache in Paris was asked to inspect the Belgian aircraft. During their visits, the team inspected seventy-one Mirages and submitted their report. Similarly, the Defence and Technical Attache in Paris inspected twenty-five aircraft from SABCA, Belgium.

On 25 May, 1995, after a post visit presentation to the Air Board, the CAS approved the formation of a project team to manage all aspects related to a cost effective induction of about forty Mirages in the PAF fleet. These aircraft were to be of a single varient, capable of a surface attack role, not exceeding a total cost of $120 million, and were to form two viable and homogenous squadrons, fully suportable with the PAF maintenance resources and infrastructure.

The project team obtained proposals for the intended purchase of Mirages from all the potential vendors, and simultaneously launched a market study. The PAF's own overhauling experiences in Kamra were kept in view to work out the expected costs of each aircraft and the related project. During a visit to France in 1995, the project team was pleasantly surprised to learn that forty Mirage Vs and about forty Mirage IIIs of the French Air Force were available for sale at quite a reasonable price. The French Mirage V suited the PAF requirement because of its longer range and additional payload. Later, through various coordination meeting in Pakistan, the PAF and AIRCO worked out a detailed proposal which included the required statement of work. Representatives from the French DGA and the French Air Force accompanied the AIRCO team, to demostrate their full support to the PAF-AIRCO agreements and obligations.

SAGEM is a French company that has Defence and Security Division as one of its main branches. In this division, SAGEM specializes in three specific categories, i.e. inertial navigation, electro-optic equipment, and system integration. In Project ROSE, the PAF was already acquiring thirty-six Mirages upgraded by SAGEM through their inertial navigation and system integration departments. In August 1995, SAGEM combined their upgrade skills with the potential sales opportunity, and proposed to the PAF a package deal of forty Mirages at a quoted cost of $150 million.

As the SAGEM proposal became more and more attractive and feasible, the PAF negotiated a further reduction in costs so that they actually fell into its feasibility regime. Through numerous discussions, SAGEM came up with a revised proposal of $124 million in November 1995. According to this proposal, the package was to consist of thirty-four Mirage Vs and six dual-seat Mirage IIIs, making a total of forty fully overhauled aircraft. Out of the forty aircraft, twenty Mirage Vs would be mordanized to the ROSE-II standards (ROSE-II modification is the same as ROSE-I, except the Griffo-M radar is replaced by FLIR). The engines installed on the aircraft would have a minimum life of four years and 300 hours. The package would also include the required ground support, alternate mission equipment, and line replaceable units. Besides, the kits for RWR, CFD and GPS would be installed in all aircraft.

Keeping in view the overall SAGEM package vis-a-vis quoted prices, the offer appeared quite viable to the PAF. According to a conservative estimate, the cost of this package should have been atleast $146 million. On 27 December 1995, the PAF gave the go ahead, and the contract for the forty Mirages was signed on 1 February 1996 for a total amount of 118 million.

This deal had become somewhat controversial mainly due to the misreporting of the press. The PAF preferred to have the necessary modifications done in France because PAC Kamra was, during that time frame, already busy overhauling the PAF's Mirages. Accepting any additional work would have unnecessarily deplayed the delivery of the French Mirages to the PAF wothout making any difference in cost.

SAGEM encountered problems on purchase of spares which they needed for the timely and efficient running of their work. Thus the programme suffered delays during most of 1997 and 1998. However, the company managed to get the first batch ready by September 1998, when PAF pilots ferried across eight Mirages on 22 September 1998. A second batch of eight was recieved in 1999 while the third batch of eight came to Pakistan on 22 June 2000. The deliveries of the rest were supposed to be completed by the end of the year 2000.

PAF Squadrons:
  • No. 2 Squadron
  • No. 5 'Falcons' Squadron
  • No. 7 Squadron
  • No. 8 Squadron
  • No. 15 'Cobras' Squadron
  • No. 22 Squadron
  • No. 25 Squadron
  • Combat Commander's School
    PAF Mirages Production and Serials:
    18 Mirage IIIEP 67.101 - 67.118
    13 Mirage IIIRP 67.201 - 67.213
    5 Mirage IIIDP 67.301 - 67.305
    28 Mirage 5PA 70.401 - 70.428
    30 Mirage 5PA2/3 79.429 - 79.458
    38 Mirage IIIEA (O) 90500s
    7 Mirage IIIDA (OD) 90.601 - 90.610
    34 Mirage IIIEF 96700s
    6 Mirage IIIBE 96.861 - 96.867
    Indian Aircraft destroyed by the Mirage IIIEP of No. 9 Squadron, PAF, during the December 1971 War.
    Date IAF Type Weapon Remarks
    4 Dec Canberra AIM-9B Night interception over Sakesar by PAF pilot Flt Lt Naem Ata
    5 Dec Hunters (2) AIM-9Bs Near Lahore. Pilot Sqd Ldr Farooq Umar
    5 Dec Hunter AIM-9B Near Lahore. Pilot Flt Lt Shah
    5 Dec Hunter AIM-9B Over Sakesar. Pilot Flt Lt Safdar
    6 Dec Su-7 AIM-9B Jammu area, over Indian territory. Pilot Flt lt Salimuddin
    10 Dec Hunters (2) 30 mm Destroyed during take-off. Straffing run over the runway at Pathankot airfield
    13 Dec Su-7 AIM-9B Narowal area, over Indian territory. Pilot Gp Capt Haider
    13 Dec Su-7 30 mm Narowal area, over Indian territory. Pilot Flt Lt Shah