Flying low across the Chadian landscape, the two French Mirage F1 aircraft are hoping to see a radar signature from a radar station to their north. As they scream through the barren landscape, slipping between canyon rocks about 100 feet above the desert floor, a radar system starts emitting a signal. As the radar tries to locate a patrol plane the French were using as bait, the F1s screamed skyward, quickly gaining altitude to 600 feet, located the signal source, and fired their air-to-ground rockets directly onto the target.
Read about the actual event: “In 1987, the French Air Force Staged a Daring Raid on Libyan Defenses”
French Mirage F1 performing low level flying in Chad
Designed to fill both the interceptor and ground attack roles for the French military, the Mirage F1 was introduced into service in 1973. The F1 was developed to replace the Mirage III, a lightweight, all-weather interceptor that served countries like France and Israel during the 1960s. Its design makes it perform very well at high-speeds at both low and high altitudes.
The Mirage F1 is a high-mounted, swept-wing multi-role aircraft powered by a single afterburning turbojet engine fed by two side intakes. The wing’s design and powerful engine provided the F1 the ability to take off on shorter runways.
With nearly 5 decades of service to fourteen militaries around the world, it was a premiere interceptor aircraft during the Cold War era. The Mirage F1 is currently employed by only four of those original operators, but today private companies utilize the platform as an aggressor aircraft.
7 Fast Facts About the Mirage F1
- F1 and F2 – While developing the Mirage F1, Dassault simultaneously developed the F2, a larger two-seater version. Like the F1, the F2 was a high-mounted, swept-wing design that enabled the pilot the control to fly fast at very low altitudes and serve as a ground attack/fighter aircraft. The F2 never made it out of prototype status as the French Air Force chose the smaller, simpler Mirage F1.
- Performance – The F1’s single SNECMA Atar 09K50 jet engine produces 11,025 lbf of thrust. Using the afterburner creates 15,785 lbf. It can reach a maximum speed of Mach 2.2 and has a ceiling of 52,000 feet. The F1 has a combat radius of 459 miles but can also be refueled in the air.
- Armament – The Mirage F1 was originally equipped with just two medium-range Matra R530 air-to-air missiles and two internal 30mm cannons. In the later 70s, more rails would be added under the wings to increase external payloads to include more missiles and free-fall and parachute drag bombs.
- Variants – There were over 720 Mirage F1s produced. Many of the variants were exports to other countries outside of France. For instance, the Mirage F1B was a two-seat training version of the F1A, the initial single-seat ground-attack aircraft. The extra seat cost fuel capacity and the internal cannon. The export version of the F1B to Libya was the F1BD. The F1BK was the variant of the Kuwait export.
The F1C would become the French Air Force interceptor and the Greek export was the F1CG. The F1E became a single-seat, all-weather multi-role fighter and ground-attack aircraft. It included an inflight refueling probe and a full head-up display (HUD).
The F1CR is a tactical and reconnaissance aircraft that entered service in 1983. F1CT was an upgraded French Air Force version that was an improved ground attack (fighter bomber) version updated to replace the aging Mirage IIIEs and Vs.
- Operators – Over five decades, fourteen different countries have operated the F1. Former countries include Ecuador, France, Greece, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Spain. Gabon, Iran, Morocco, Spain, Greece, and South Africa. A couple of United States commercial businesses currently fly the Mirage F1 as their aggressor aircraft.
Aggressor – Two American companies operate the Mirage F1 as aggressor aircraft, training U.S. aviation pilots in the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.
One company, Draken International, acquired 20 Mirage F1 aircraft previously flown by the Spanish Air Force. Headquartered in Texas but operating from airbases all across the United States, Draken provides readiness training in tactical fast jet operations, electronic attack and target towing, as well as helicopter training for both military and civilians.
The other private F1 company is Textron’s aggressor company, ATAC (Airborne Tactical Advantage Company). ATAC is in possession of 63 Mirage F1 aircraft previously flown by the French Air Force. They provide tactical flight training for U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Air National Guard warfighters. Their training missions include air-to-ship, air-to-air, and research & development missions.
Both companies have upgraded and updated their F1 aircraft to provide Mach2+ aircraft for their training scenarios. They also employ prior U.S. military fighter jet pilots to operate their aircraft.
- Swept Wing – Shorter takeoff and landings – The Mirage III’s delta wing design required pilots to land at high speeds. This required the Mirage III to use longer, easy to spot and exposed runways. One of the requirements from the French Air Force had was for an aircraft that could perform shorter take-offs and landings. The high swept wing of the Mirage F1 was the perfect design to meet the requirements and it would replace the Mirage III.
The Mirage F1 in Combat
The Mirage F1 was a very successful platform and served in many conflicts around the world. One of the first combat missions was when the French Air Force deployed Mirage F1s into Africa to intervene between Chad and Libya during Operation Manta in 1983 and 1984. Iraq used the F1 in their war against Iran intensively for interception, ground attack, and anti-shipping missions. During Desert Storm, many of these Mirage F1s were flown across the border to Iran who retained them in their air forces. The F1 has seen combat with Morocco, South African Air Force, and during Desert Storm by Qatari and French forces as part of the multinational forces.
What Contracted Aggressor Air Services Mean to the Future of Air Combat Operations
Current US DoD contracts and RFQs in place will support contracted air services training for the next decade and will continue to grow in both size and scope. As warfare continues to evolve, so too will the threats from foreign aircraft manufacturers. These will include additional stealth, jamming, radar, and weapons, which US pilots must learn to both cope with and eliminate. By contracting the red air training to companies who privately own, operate, and advance these 3rd and 4th generation platforms, the US can constantly address pilot training shortfalls.
How Duotech is helping the Contracted Adversary Companies
Fighter squadrons face shortfalls in Adversary Air Support (AdAir) for combat training due to budgetary shortages and a lack of truly advanced threat replication. Duotech is providing low cost but highly capable RADAR that represents current threat capabilities. Jets equipped with Nemesis RADAR are the best AdAir solution in the market today, with an unrivaled combination of performance and growth potential. Duotech Services has designed a purpose-built RADAR to support the AdAir market by presenting a solution that is:
- Highly capable of utilizing modern RADAR techniques
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- Delivers the most sustainable and maintainable RADAR system for the application