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Mirage III/V Pictures album
PAF ordered its first batch of 24 Mirage, known as Blue Flash I, in 1967, comprising 18 Mirage IIIEP strike-interceptors, three Mirage IIIRP tactical recce aircraft and three Mirage IIIDP dual-seat trainers. Within weeks, six PAF pilots were sent to Mont de Marsan in France to train on the aircraft. The pioneers were Wg Cdr MM Alam (the PAF 1965 War Ace who eventually retired as an Air Cdre), Sqn Ldr Hakimullah (later Chief of Air Staff), Sqn Ldr Farooq F Khan (later Chief of Air Staff), Sqn Ldr Farooq Umar (retired as Air Vice Marshal), Flt Lt Arif Manzoor (died in Syria in a flying accident) and Flt Lt Akhtar Rao (retired as a Wg Cdr). The training took some nine months and saw the first six Mirage IIIEPs (67-101 to 67-106) being flown from Mont de Marson to Karachi on March 18, 1968. All of the aircraft were delivered to No. 5 Squadron, which was fully operational by the 1971 War, when it flew over 200 day and night sorties from its home base, Sargodha, along with a detachment in Mianwali. Ten more Mirage IIIRPs were delivered under Blue Flash III. Later, a Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) system with the antennas mounted in the tailfin was retrofitted by the PAF indigenously. For offensive missions there were twin 30mm DEFA-552 cannon, and seven stores pylons, with a total store capacity of 8,800lbs (4,000kgs). The ten Mirage IIIRPs were delivered to No. 20 (Tactical and Recce) Squadron in June 1977, while the earlier Mirage IIIRPs of No. 5 Squadron also joined No. 20 Squadron. Under Blue Flash V, a total of 42 single-seat Mirage IIIEA (ex-Australia) and eight Mirage IIIDAs (DA-Dual ex-Australia) were acquired and by June 1992, ten Mirage IIIEAs and four Mirage IIIDAs had been delivered to No. 7 Squadron. Most of the 42 Mirage IIIEAs were eventually despatched to PAC Kamra, where they were put through a Retrofit of Strike Element (ROSE) upgrade in co-operation with the French aerospace upgrade specialists, Sagem, in 1995. Deliveries of the ROSE Mirage IIIEAs commenced in 1996 to No. 7 Squadron at Masroor and the CCS at Mushaf. These ROSE aircraft all came with a Grifo-M radar and modern air-to-air missiles. Five Mirage IIIDPs and ten Mirage IIIEAs that were not upgraded were distributed to No. 5 Squadron along with five recce noses and cameras the RAAF had supplied. They replaced many of the original Mirage IIIEPs. Some of the Mirage IIIEA single-seaters had Infra Red Line Scanners (IRLS) integrated into their systems and at least two others were modified to carry a Long Range Aerial Panoramic (LORAP) photographic system. In 2003, the PAF bought 12 Mirage IIIEEs and one Mirage IIIDE from Spanish Air Force for spares cannibalization and, unlike the Australian or Lebanese purchases, that is just what they are being used for. Their condition dictated there was no way that any of them could be returned to service.
In 1970, a second batch (Blue Flash II) of Mirages comprising 28 Mirage VPAs (a long-range version of the Mirage IIIE) and a pair of two-seat Mirage IIIDPs, were ordered. The Mirage VPAs were fitted with the Aida II radar to provide the fighter with a ranging capability. Eighteen Mirage VPAs were delivered to No. 9 Squadron, a tactical attack unit that also housed the Mirage Operational Conversion Unit, at Rafiqui in January 1973; the remaining ten Mirage VPAs went to equip the Mirage Squadron of the Combat Commanders' School (CCS). In 1978, the PAF increased its Mirage acquisitions by a further 32 aircraft (Blue Flash IV) with the purchase of 30 Mirage VPA2/3s and two more Mirage VDPA2s. Production of the aircraft started in 1979 and the first batch (Mirage VPA2s) equipped the reformed No. 18 Squadron at Rafiqui in 1982, while No. 8 Squadron at Masroor was re-equipped with a mix of Mirage VPA2 and PA3 in the same year. The Mirage VPA3s came armed with the AM 39 Exocet anti-shipping missile that performed so well during the 1982 Falklands War. The Mirage VPA3s are fitted with the Thomson CSF Agave radar to guide the Exocet to its target. Early in 1996 the PAF signed a contract, with Sagem for the upgrade of 33 Mirage VEFs and six Mirage IIIDFs which were all eventually upgraded to ROSE standard. There were originally 40 aircraft in the contract but a French test-pilot crashed one of them after hitting electricity cables in France during 2000. This programme did not run smoothly because of a lack of spare parts. An initial 19 aircraft were eventually delivered to No. 25 Squadron at Kamra-Minhas, but this did not commence until mid-1998, when experienced PAF Mirage pilots ferried them from Bordeaux, France, to Masroor. The last eight remaining Mirage VEFs of the Blue Flash VI contract were delivered to No. 22 OCU at Masroor, where pilots convert to the Mirage. This allowed the Mirage VPAs serving the unit to be released to No. 8 Squadron for operational use. Clearly, the PAF leadership were keen to beep up their Mirage squadrons with an aircraft that only cost a fraction of a new fighter. These former Lebanese Mirages were eventually transferred to No. 22 OCU, when their Mirage VEFs went to PAC Kamra for ROSE modifications. This provided the PAF with an all important tactical night attack capability and the ROSE Mirage VEFs were delivered to the newly created No. 27 Squadron, which stood up in April 2007 at Rafiqui, under the command of Wg Cdr Shafqat. By now the PAF had gained a reputation of being the world's experts on the Mirage classic. After acquiring the bulk of Libya's Mirages several of them have been overhauled and delivered to a variety of squadrons, although No. 5 Squadron took the Mirage VDRs. Pakistan's ingenuity and engineering skills have meant the Mirages continue to play a major part in the defence of Pakistan airspace.
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