Dassault Mirage F1s


The Dassault Mirage F1 was a single-engine fighter aircraft, designed to function as both an interceptor aircraft and as a capable ground attack platform. While officially developed for the French Air Force as a capable air defense aircraft, Dassault had placed considerable emphasis on developing the Mirage F1 for ground attack duties as a secondary role during its early design. Developed by the company to function as a successor to the successful Mirage III and Mirage 5 families, it drew heavily upon its predecessors as well, sharing the same fuselage as the Mirage III, while adopting a considerably different wing configuration.
The Mirage F1 used a shoulder-mounted swept wing, instead of the Delta wing of the Mirage III, which resulted in a more than 50% reduction in required runway lengths and increased internal fuel tankage for 40% greater combat range. The approach speed prior to landing is 25% less than the preceding Mirage IIIE. According to Dassault, the negative performance impact associated with the increased thickness of the Mirage F1’s wing over the Mirage III’s counterpart had been offset by improvements made to the propulsion system. The wing is fitted with both double-slotted trailing edge flaps and full-span leading edge slats, the latter being automatically operated to reduce the aircraft’s turn radius during combat.

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A key area of advancement on the Mirage F1 over its predecessors was in its onboard avionics. The Thomson-CSF Cyrano IV monopulse radar system, developed from the Cyrano II unit installed on the Mirage IIIE, serves as the main sensor; it operates in three different modes: air-target acquisition and tracking, ground mapping, and terrain avoidance. The later Cyrano IV-1 model also provided for a limited look-down capability. According to aerospace publication Flight International, the Cyrano IV radar was capable of detecting aerial targets at double the range of earlier models. The standard production Mirage F1 was furnished with an Instrument Landing System (ILS), radar altimeter, UHF/VHF radio sets, Tactical Air Navigation system (TACAN) and aground data link. Other avionics include an autopilot and yaw damper.
The Mirage F1 was powered by a single SNECMA Atar 9K-50 turbojet engine, which was capable of providing roughly 7 tonnes-force (69 kN; 15,000 pounds) of thrust, giving the aircraft a maximum speed of 1,453 MPH and an altitude ceiling of 65,615 feet. Flight International described the Atar engine as being “unexpectedly simple”, despite the adoption of an afterburner. An improved engine, initially known as the Super Atar and later as the Snecma M53, was intended to be eventually adopted on production Mirage F1 aircraft, as well as for successor aircraft.
The initial armament of the Mirage F1 was a pair of internal 30 mm cannons, and a single Matra R530 medium-range air-to-air missile, which was carried under the fuselage. It could carry a total combined payload of 13,889lb of bombs and missiles, all of which would be carried externally. After 1979, the medium-range R530 was replaced by the improved  Super 530F missile as the latter came into service in quantity with the French Air Force. In 1977, the R550 Magic was released; the Mirage F1 has these missiles mounted on rails on the wingtips. Around the same time, the American AIM-9 Sidewinder was also introduced to the Mirage F1’s armament; both the Spanish and Hellenic Air Forces had requested the integration of the Sidewinder upon their own Mirage F1CE and Mirage F1CG fighters.
In June 1975, with tension growing with Morocco, Spain decided to strengthen its Air Force and bought 15 Mirage F1CE that were allocated to Albacete AB. In mid-1976 there was still some tension with Morocco and Algerian and Libyan MiG-25 flights on the Mediterranean, which would lead the Spanish Air Force to purchase ten more Mirage F1C and two years later order 48 Mirage F1CE and F1EE.

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Some years later Spain also bought 12 F1EDA/DDA’s retired from Qatar Air Force, which also sold some equipment and weapons used by those Mirage F1s. In Spanish service the F1CE was known as the C.14A, the F1EE was the C.14B, the two-seater as CE.14 and the F1EDA/DDA as the C.14C/CE.14C
They served mainly as Spain’s primary air defence interceptors and interdiction as secondary role until they were superseded by Spain’s EF-18A Hornets. They served with Ala 11 in Manises (Ex-Qatari planes), Ala 14 in Albacete, and Ala 46 at Gando in the Canary Islands. Ala 46 used their Mirage F1s mainly as air defence planes, using same deep blue color pattern as French planes.
In October 1996, Thomson-CSF (actually Thales) was awarded a FFr700 million (US$96m) contract to upgrade 48 F1CE/EE single-seaters and 4 F1EB trainers to Mirage F1M standard (see below). Ex-Qatar Mirage F1s were left outside the upgrade, as it was a different version, and were the first ones to be retired in 2002. As well as a service-life extension, this improved the avionics and added look down, terrain following capability with an upgraded Cyrano IVM radar.

 

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From July 2006 to November 2006, Spanish Mirage F1s were deployed to Lithuania as a part of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission; during this deployment, they were scrambled twice to intercept undisclosed intruders. On 20 January 2009, a pair of Spanish F1s from Ala 14 collided in flight near their base during a routine dogfight training mission, resulting in the deaths of all three crew members, it was a single seat F1M and a two seat F1BM (see box with serials). The wreckage of the two jets, including the remains of the aircrew, was found about 3 km (1.9 mi) apart. By 2009, there were 38 F1M’s in service with Escuadrón 141 “Patanes” and 142 Escuadrón “Tigres” of Ala 14.
In June 2013, the Spanish Air Force retired its fleet of Mirage F1s, having progressively phased the type out of service as increasing numbers of the Eurofighter Typhoon had become available. During 2013, it was reported that Spain could sell sixteen F1M’s to Argentina but it seems they had the budget to buy new Kfirs instead, although neither of these possibilities materialized. The deal went through and Argentina bought the Spanish Mirages in October 2013, but the deal was scrapped in March 2014 after pressure from the United Kingdom on Spain to not assist in FAA modernization over tensions between the countries over the Falkland Islands. In November 2017, Draken International announced that it had acquired 20 F1Ms from Spain and would refurbish and upgrade them for use as adversary aircraft.
Although the Mirage F1 was withdrawn from use, just after accomplishing 37 years of stalwart service replaced completely by the Typhoon, but at the time of its retirement it was still capable of fullfilling its tasks - even to escort the King of Spain when he is flying out, or returning from a foreign visit. Thanks to its intensive modernization, the Mirage F1M was until retirement a very important asset in the fast jet force of Spain.

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The Dassault Mirage F1 series was designed to replace the successful Dassault Mirage III series. The aircraft was designed for high-speed handling with low and high-altitude performance, multi-faceted capabilities in the fighter or strike aircraft role and to provide the pilot with some minor conveniences for long sorties requiring short turnaround times. Over 720 Mirage F1 examples have been produced. The F1 remained until its withdrawal from service (except perhaps Iran) one of the most battle-tested aircraft systems of the Cold War.
The first Mirage F1 prototype was completely funded by Dassault and flew for the first time on December 23rd, 1966. The French Air Force was pleased with the first results and selected the aircraft for further development in the form of additional prototypes in May 1967. The results of minor improvements to the airframe and the performance of the aircraft were satisfactory and the full operational status of the first production models was achieved in May 1973. The aircraft became a highly regarded interceptor - one of the best at the time of its inception - based on capabilities and its powerful nose-mounted radar. This system could track and engage multiple targets at any altitude. The interest of many air forces in this aircraft was a fact.

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