Tag Archives: Mirage

At nearly 40, the IAI Kfir fighter jet received a new lease of life

The IAI Kfir, (“Lion Cub” in Hebrew) has just received an upgrade program to extend its life for another 40 years (possibly).

During the late 1960’s the Israel Aircraft Industries were forced to look inwardly after France had imposed an arms embargo on Isreal (which lasted 42 years) after Israel had paid for development work by Dassault on the Mirage V, a fair weather ground attack aircraft to replace the Israeli Mirage III’s in that role.

In short, avionics were removed from behind the cockpit to increase the fuel capacity and to lower maintenance costs and, in response to the arms embargo, Israel produced an unlicensed copy of the Mirage V and called it the Nesher, after it is thought that the blueprints for the engine and air frame had been acquired from third party Mirage producers.

After the Six Day war, supplies of Mirage III were pretty low so producing a domestic version made sense and got around the embargo completely.

The Kfir program began whens the need to enhance the Nesher became apparent due to the improving Soviet era jets that Israel’s neighbours were acquiring at the time.

The first thing the Kfir designers were to look at was an engine; two engines were looked at: the Rolls Royce Spey Turbofan (which had been used in the Blackburn Buccaneer, F-4K Phantom in UK use and by the AMX project in Italy) and the General Electric J79 Turbojet, the same as in the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom of which the Israeli Air Force (IAF) were just starting to take delivery of, which was selected and produced locally.

Due to the need for increased cooling of the J79, the Israeli engineers shortened the Mirage III rear fuselage and widened it to accommodate wider air intakes and an additional air intake was also introduced to the bottom of the vertical stabilizer.

A modified two seat Mirage IIIc took to the skies in 1970 powered by the new J79 engine shortly followed thereafter by a J79 powered Nesher during September 1971. But it was June 1973 when a highly modified Nesher powered by the J79 took to the skies for the first time, along with the Israeli avionics on board and re-arranged fuel tanks to improve range.

The finished article entered IAF service during 1975 and saw its first combat during an air strike into Lebanon during 1977 and even got its first kill, a Syrian Mig-21, in 1979 the same day as the F-15 took its first air to air kill. By 1982 the Kfir was used mostly in the ground attack role, leaving the F-15’s & F-16’s to take on the air superiority role.

The Kfir was retired from IAF service in 1996 but is still used by several export customers. Due to the J79 being a U.S design it meant that Israel had to gain permission from the U.S State Department to export the Kfir which did limit the export potential but was bought by Colombia, Ecuador and Sri Lanka and have been used extensively by those nations.

Twenty five examples were also used by the U.S Navy as aggressor aircraft operating out of NAS Fallon and were given the name of F-21A.

Israel has recently announced a new upgrade program to extend the life of the existing export examples named “Block 60.”

The upgrade basically strips the aircraft back to its fuselage and then performs a nuts and bolts rebuilt, upgrading avionics and other systems including a new data-link system, something the Kfir never had being a third generation aircraft.

IAI state that the improvements bring the Kfir up to a fourth generation aircraft and something that is suitable for the 21st Century.

All of Colombia’s Kfir jets have gone through this program as well as the further twelve examples that were acquired; IAI is hoping that it can sell the Block 60 upgrade to the other two operators.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

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French Air Force’s Nuclear Deterrence Drills with the Mirage 2000N

The French Air Force have conveyed a complex drill whose aim was to test the nuclear capability of the service, the French Ministry of Defence said.

The exercise featured a Mirage 2000N jet carrying ASMP-A missiles and took place on Sept. 23, 2013.

The scenario featured a single Mirage 2000N from 2/4 La Fayette Squadron, based in Avord AB in a mission that lasted 3 hours.

The fighter flew to the operative area at high altitude, joined a C-135FR tanker for in-flight refueling then turned towards the target, low level, using terrain to avoid radar detection and infiltrate the enemy territory.

The ASMP-A missile (of course without the warhead) hit the target as planned.

The ASMP-A missiles are the main French nuclear deterrent since 2009. This is a new generation of ASMP missile with an enhanced, longer range of 500-600 km.

Both Mirage 2000N and Rafale can carry the ASMP-A. Besides that, French nuclear assets include the Le Triomphrant submarines carrying ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles).

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

Image Credit: French Air Force

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One year after defecting from Gaddafi's regime, Libyan Air Force Mirage F1s bid farewell to Malta

Feb. 21, 2011 – Feb. 22, 2012: one year after defecting to Malta, the two Libyan Mirage F1s returned to Libya.

Wearing the roundel and flag of Free Libya, the two aircraft, that had performed engine runs  in the last weeks, followed by a high speed taxi on RWY 05/23 at Malta International Airport on Monday, departed from runway 31 and performed a flypast to bid farewell to the Maltese Islands before heading south toward Libya.

The pilots that brought the Mirages back home, were Col. Alial-Rabti and Col. Abdullah al-Salheen, the same that had defected from Gaddafi last year.

Interestingly, the radio callsign used by the Mirage flight was both “Eagle Formation” and “Libyan Air Force 217” with the latter paying tribute to the day the revolution started: Feb. 17 (2-17).

Thanks again to Brendon Attard for the images in this post.

Photo: Libyan Air Force Mirage F1 engine run produces backfire

The two Libyan Air Force Mirage F1s that  had landed in Malta International Airport on Feb. 21, 2011, after refusing to attack unarmed civilian protesters at Benghazi at the beginning of the uprising that led to the war, are about to return home.

The aircraft had taken off from Okba Ben Nafi airbase near Tripoli and landed at Benghazi, where they were refueled and armed. After taking off from Benghazi, the two pilots were ordered to fire at protestors hence they decided to defect to Malta, about 210 miles to the north of Libya.

In the last few days, both Mirages, that since Sept. 2011 have received the new Free Libya Air Force roundel, have been overhauled and readied for departure, currently scheduled for Feb. 17, 2012.

The pictures in this post, taken by Brendon Attard at Malta on Feb. 3 (serial 508) and Feb. 8 (serial 502), depict the two aircraft performing ground engine runs. Noteworthy, during one of the tests, the Mirage F1 serialled 502 shoots a flame out of the exhaust nozzle. Caused by excess fuel entering the exhaust system where it finds enough oxygen to light off, the visual effect of this kind of backfire is quite similar to the one caused by compressor surges (often suffered by combat planes launched by aircraft carriers’ catapults).


Following on India's MMRCA win, Rafale on the verge of winning UAE fighter deal?

Has Dassault won a 60 jet deal with the UAE?

French newspaper La Tribune reported on Feb. 2, 2012, that France could be on the verge of winning a long-awaited $10billion 60 jet deal with the United Arab Emerates which could be signed as soon as April.

Citing unidentified sources, the paper said on its website that President Nicolas Sarkozy would go to the UAE in March or early April when the contract is likely to be finalised.

The rumor comes only days after Dassalt virtually won the Indian MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) deal and few months after Eurofighter consortium, beaten in the “mother of all tenders”, received  an RFP (Request For Proposal) by the UAE Air Force.

The deal has been in the pipeline since 2008 but negotiations stalled when the UAE described it as “uncompetitive and unworkable.” and had asked for information about the Typhoon. Althought how the deal was unlocked remains unclear a source told La Tribune that every issue has been solved.

If confirmed, this new order will unlock the possibility of further middle east deals for Dassault and Rafale in the Gulf, where countries could benefit of inter-operability that a common platform could offer. Qatar Emiri Air Force whose Mirage 2000s have taken part to the Air War in Libya  operating side to side with the French Air Force combat planes out of Souda Bay, Crete, could buy 24 to 36 Rafale to replace its ageing Mirages. Kuwait last year said it was also considering buying Rafales.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist

Photo by Alessandro Fucito