Michel Gérard, formerly on the editorial staff of the french aviation magazine AIR FAN has offered to
provide periodic photos and information relating to Mirage aircraft, his experience with the French Armée de
l'Air, as well as comments/reviews on the scenery, aircraft, and panels featured on this website. The
articles are arranged oldest to newest.
I have always been an aviation buff, and I was lucky enough to make my Military Service in 1976-77 as a
reserve officer in the French Air Force.
I was at that time an Intelligence Officer with the 2ème Escadre de Chasse in Dijon, a unit I had chosen
because this was the place where I would have the best opportunities to fly on twin-seaters. We had
at that time a complete Squadron of Mirage IIIB/BE's, four Fouga Magisters, two T-33's, not to mention one
Broussard and one Dassault 315.
After my military service, I kept on serving in the Reserve for more than 15 years, spending most of this
time with Escadron de Chasse 3/2 Alsace, one of the component Squadrons of 2ème EC.
At the same time, I started writing for several french aviation magazines.
During all these years in the Reserve, I have had many opportunities to fly various types of aircraft,
and I even managed to attend one Red Flag Exercise in Nellis AFB, this being in 1984.
I have discovered flight simulation at the beginning of 1999, when I bought a new computer. I currently
use FS98, CFS and FS2000, and I am trying my teeth at Falcon4, but this is still a little bit hard for me!
Here comes a new picture ; this time I have changed the subject.
This Mirage 2000 (N° 35 / 2-EE) belonged to EC 1/2 Cigognes. It was part of the first batch of Mirage 2000's
received by the French Air Force in 1984/85. The picture was taken in January 1989 while the Squadron was
practicing air-to-air gunnery from Solenzara Air Base (hence the Corsican coastline in the background...)
Note the extended wing slats : I was flying in a Fouga Magister that day, and the Mirages had to slow down
to approximately 250 Kts to allow me to take a few pictures.
The first 2000's received by the Armée de l'Air were to a particular standard, with a Thomson-CSF RDM radar
and SNECMA M53-5 engine instead of the RDI radar and M53-P2 engine fitted on later machines. The only user
of these early machines was 2ème Escadre de Chasse.
It is only fair that the Squadrons which belonged to the former 2ème Escadre de Chasse (this Wing having
been disbanded during the Summer of 1995) are nowadays in the process of re-equiping with the latest 2000-5
version featuring RDI radar, M53-P2 engine and "glass" instrumentation. 2000-5 is the version currently
offered for export, yet export customers most of the time choose an equipment standard outclassing by far
the one the French Air Force can afford !
In fact, the 2000-5's that are being pressed into service with 2ème EC are by no means new aircraft, but
conversions of the airframes formerly used by 2ème EC that have been retrofitted to the new standard and
brought back to zero-hour configuration by the Dassault factory in Bordeaux !
This picture shows a Mirage IIIE flying close formation with the prototype
This is a very rare picture, and to the best of my knowledge the only
occasion on which the Mirage 4000 was pictured flying formation with an
Armée de l'Air machine.
The Mirage 4000 was a Dassault private venture which the French Air Force
could not afford because of budgetary constraints, so it was regarded as
"politically very incorrect" to make any reference to the "4000" within the
Air Force. We were at that time supposed to behave exactly as though the
"4000" did not exist.
Yet, I managed to take that picture and several others showing the "4000" in
flight while my squadron was dispatched for a few days to Istres AFB in the
south of France during February 1982. Istres is not only an Armée de l'Air
base, but also the home of the French test pilot school (EPNER), and it
houses both a government flight test establishment and Dassault's private
flight test center.
The pilot in the Mirage 4000 was the then Dassault's chief test pilot,
One funny thing in this picture is that the Mirage IIIE's pilot is
Jean-Marie Saget's own son, Claude, who is currently the Commanding Officer
of the Armée de l'Air's Aerobatic Teams, after having been himself a test
pilot and flight test instructor for 10 years.
Quite obviously, the series of pictures I took that day was perfectly
unofficial, and they were to be kept secret for more than ten years!
Here comes another crazy picture I took nearly 20 years ago. The date was 25th June 1981, and we
were celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Escadron de Chasse 3/2 Alsace (the Squadron had been created as
the first fighter unit in the Free French Forces in September 1941 and it soldiered on until the end of
WWII as 341 (French) Sqn, RAF).
To celebrate this anniversary, we had invited as many types of aircraft as possible that had been flown
by the Squadron during its 40 years lifespan.
The Swiss Fliegertruppe had dispatched two Vampires belonging to the Fighter School in Sion. These
two aircraft had been painstakingly repainted in very accurate French markings of the 1950-52 period,
although one of the two machines was a twin-seater, while the Armée de l'Air only flew single-seater Vampires.
We took off with a three-ship formation to intercept them along the border and escort them back to Dijon,
this providing me the opportunity to take a few pictures. Unfortunately, despite the season, the
weather on that day was very bad, hence the poor quality of this picture.
What a wonderful sight it has been to discover the two Vampires circling a few hundred feet above a lake
just along the Swiss-French border ! They were flying so low that we did not spot them at once, so
it was quite surprising to hear on the radio a nice Swiss accent telling us in French, "Hey, the Mirages !
We have visual !"... No radar, wooden construction, yet the Vampire proved to be a very good interceptor !
The pilots of the two Mirage IIIE's were Commandant Jean-Michel Nicolas (in the background) and Capitaine
Patrick Porchier ; as far as I remember, the Vampire was flown by Hauptmann Pierre Egger, and the Mirage
IIIBE in which I was flying was flown by Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Michel Laporte, the then C.O. of 2ème
Escadre de Chasse.
It is funny to see the Vampire leading this anachronistic three-ship formation, skipping three "missing links",
i.e. Ouragan, Mystère IVA, and Mirage IIIC, which were the successive mounts of E.C. 3/2 Alsace in the fifties
View another image from this same flight as well as a more
detailed description (French language).
This picture shows the N°04 Mirage 2000 prototype leading a three-ship
I took this picture during February 1981. Each of the two Mirage IIIE's
belonged to one of the single-seater squadrons the 2nd Escadre de Chasse
(namely: Escadron de Chasse 3/2 Alsace in the foreground and EC 1/2 Cigognes
in the background). 2nd EC had been selected to become the first Wing in the
Armée de l'Air to operate the Mirage 2000.
Indeed, the first Armée de l'Air Mirage 2000 C's officially became
operational 3 and a half years after this picture was taken, in September
1984, with EC 1/2 Cigognes based at Dijon.
I write "officially operational" because the first aircraft received by the
Squadron on September 11, 1984, were mainly for propaganda purposes, and had
to be returned to Dassault's to receive a more comprehensive avionics suite.
The Mirage IIIE's had been fitted with the SEPR 841 rocket engine. This rocket engine, which could
only be fitted in IIIC's and IIIE's, was installed in place of the belly fuel tank. It needed important
ground handling precautions, since it used nitric acid. In fact, it used a mixture of nitric acid (contained
in the rocket pack itself) and jet fuel, but this jet fuel had to be drawn from a special tank which was fitted
in place of the gun chassis ; therefore, rocket-equipped Mirage III's were devoid of guns.
The SEPR 841 engine had been developed in the early days of the Mirage IIIC, at a time when this aircraft was
regarded as a pure pinpoint interceptor, to counter the threat of high flying Soviet bombers. It provided
approximately 800 kg (1600 lbs) of thrust, this thrust being constant with altitude. The rocket engine was
aimed at supplying the missile-only armed fighters an immediate boost at high altitude. At the normal
operating altitude of the rocket engine (i.e; 30-40.000 ft), this instantly doubled the available thrust, thus
allowing either for zoom climb, better turn radius or immediate acceleration.
In the above picture, which was taken at approximately 20,000 ft, the lead aircraft had no rocket engine ; it
was climbing with full afterburner, while the two rocket-equipped planes only used approximately 80% dry thrust
plus rocket in order to keep formation.
The rocket engine had a total operating time of 80 seconds ; in theory, it could be fired up to 6 times.
In fact, at the end of their career, the rocket engines often did not light at all ! And guess what happened
when a rocket did not fire up ?... Well, the acid had to be jettisoned prior to landing... To illustrate
this, the B&W picture below shows a nice trail of acid being jettisoned somewhere above the Burgundy vineyards.
The drawing shows details of the rocket pack as installed in Mirage IIICs; the IIIE installation was similar.
Just published in France is the first in a series of four books devoted to the single-engined delta Mirages family,
i. e. Mirage III, 5, 50 and V.
The first volume deals with the development aircraft (MD550 Mystère Delta, Mirage I, Mirage III and Mirage IIIA)
and the first generation machines (Mirage IIIC, IIIB and IIIBE) in Armée de l'Air service.
The next three volumes will handle the following subjects:
#2 - Mirage IIIEs in French service
#3 - Mirage IIIR/RD and 5F in French service
#4 - All export variants, either single or twin-seaters
This book is the result of a thorough research by its three authors, Bernard Chenel, Eric Moreau and Patrick
Audouin, all of them recognized Mirage experts.
It offers the most comprehensive cover of the subject ever published, and it attains such a level of detail
that it is likely never to be equaled. Its 464 pages are illustrated by more than
1000 photographs, most of them previously unpublished, not to forget a host of
technical drawings, 1/72nd scale plans, and 20 colour profiles.
The book starts with a very complete technical account. Unit service is amply covered and illustrated by
many pilots interviews, which give some unexpected highlights on the subject. A list of all aircraft built,
together with their successive unit allocations, is provided.
Although the main text is in french, most illustrations are captioned in english, and this book is a real must
for any true Mirage enthusiast. No one can boast a good knowledge of these aircraft without having at
hand this incredible sum of information.
This book can be obtained directly from the publishers, but only while stocks last, because it seems that the
demand has been somehow underestimated. So, if you are interested in the subject, send your order to:
3 bis, Rue Castérès
92110 Clichy la Garenne
Tel: 33 / 01 47 31 69 53
or go here:
The price is 495 FF (approximately 70 US $) + p&p 74 FF, payable by Visa or Mastercard. For continental
USA, allow 2 to 3 weeks for delivery, and please kindly mention "Mirage Aircraft for Flight Simulator" when ordering.
I am sending you the airport diagram together with the TACAN and TACAN/ILS let-down and approach procedures
for use with the Salon-de-Provence scenery, so that simmers can practice some
military procedures, with a stunning 1000ft/NM rate of descent (5000 ft/minute at 300 Kts in a Mirage) from
FL190 down to 2000 ft, gear down at 240 Kts, final approach at 185-190 Kts and touch-down at 170-180 Kts.
I have as well the visual arrival and departure procedures, which are rather complicated at Salon due to
interferences with the nearby Istres AFB and Marseille-Provence international airport, but these are of
little use since the necessary landmarks (highway, antennas, railway station, etc...) are not included in
France98 or the default Flight Simulator scenery. I have proposed to the author of the Salon scenery
to supply him these documents, so that he could include the necessary elements in a new version of his
scenery. So who knows...
These procedures are part of an official French Armed Forces publication, and simmers should note that there
are slight differences between the runway orientations indicated in the official manual and the ones shown in
Flight Simulator (161°/341° vs 162°/342° at Salon-de-Provence for instance). These differences should be
taken into account, especially when performing ILS approaches.
Salon-de-Provence TACAN Salon-de-Provence TACAN/ILS
Photograph from Ecole de L'Air / Salon de Provence.
The following installments from Michel GÉRARD were taken from conversational emails
(chatting or discussing ideas for future articles) and not originally intended for use on
the website. Since I have not heard from Michel since September 2000 I have decided
to go ahead and share them with visitors. In addition to sending me very interesting
photographs and articles Michel also provided French translations for the
articles and the Quoi de Neuf? page, "These automatic
translators are really something of a nightmare !". I'm sorry but articles below this
box will not be available in translated French. - Frank Safranek, June '02
I have seen you already featured the new page on the site. I was ready to send you a new header photo,
and I send it anyways.
Note the very "tired" paint scheme of this machine, the replacement (unpainted) canopy, and the dummy Matra
550 Magic missile under the starboard wing. At the end of their carreer, Mirage IIIE's often carried
two Magic missiles on specially modified (cranked) launchers. One of these missiles, painted blue, was
a complete dummy ; the other one, painted orange, contained the infra-red seeker of the real missile so that
pilots could practice interceptions. The orange missile was connected to the aircraft's avionics and
gave contact and "judy" sounds.
I think the only correct thing is the 18/36 runway. Everything else is
wrong, as if the author had created some kind of a "mirror image" of the real
thing as well as adding some features that never have existed.
I have seen that you have uploaded on your site the CORSEV50.ZIP
scenery by Didier BUR that includes BA 126 Solenzara.
Unfortunately, while this scenery is a great improvement over the default FS98
scenery of Corsica, especially regarding Ajaccio airport and the mountaneous
terrain that is so representative of this magnificent island, the representation
of Solenzara airbase is completely spurious.
Image of the
Sailing Harbor of Solenzara
used with the authorization of CorseWeb®
The taxiways, aprons, buildings, control tower, hangars, etc... all should be
to the WEST of the runway, i.e. between the runway and the mountains, and not
between the runway and the sea, as they are featured in this scenery.
At Solenzara airbase, the area between the main runway and the sea is occupied
by a so-called "crash runway", approximately 4000 ft long and 400 ft wide if my
memory serves me right, and that is actually used by target towing aircraft to
drop the remains of the targets so that they can easily be picked up by ground crews.
There are no taxiways or parking areas opposite to the tower.
It is funny to note that the designers of FS2000 have copied Didier BUR's mistake
and located the tower EAST of the runway !
I remember I had been quite puzzled after I first downloaded CORSEV50.ZIP when
I tried to "land" a Fouga Magister at Solenzara and discovered when on finals
that everything was the wrong way round !
As you can notice, the scenery is some kind of a "mirror image" of the reality ;
even the TACAN is located in the wrong place. Approach courses are wrong
too ; they should be 179° and 359° instead of 181° and 001°.
I could not manage to find where I put my military airport charts book ; so a
friend sent me by fax an airport diagram, but the result is not very good !
I shall get next week a new book, so we will have much better pictures, and I
shall send you all informations about Solenzara AB, including arrival and
departure procedures. This could provide a useful complement for Didier Bur's
Mirage 2000-5F of EC 2/2 "Côte d'Or" taking off from
during the March 2000 NATO joint exercise Ample Train 2000.
Image courtesy PIO Staff of Solenzara AB.
The error regarding the position of the tower has been faithfully reproduced by
Microsoft in FS2000, but they correctly provide an ILS for RWY 18, which is lacking
in D. Bur's scenery.
Here are pictures of the airport diagram, and the visual and TACAN/ILS approach
plates for Solenzara AB.
Hello Frank !
Thank you for sending me this Mirage IIIB. At the beginning of their service
life, the IIIB's were delivered to fighter squadrons, prior to being assigned to the
newly created training squadron ECT 2/2 Côte d'Or in 1966.
EC 3/2 used two IIIB's during 1962-66, these being N°204 and 209. N°209 was
at one time coded 2-LX. These machines were in silver finish, the first
camouflaged aircraft appearing in 1979.
The plane you sent me looks fine ; to be accurate, the canards should be deleted,
and the intake cones should be painted in red, while the brake chute housing
should be silver grey.
It handles nicely, yet I find it a little bit too fast (M 2.25 at 35.000 ft !)
Now, how about some discussion regarding instrument panels? I am sending you
two pictures, one showing a MIIIB panel (above left) and the second showing a MIIIE
panel (above right).
The twin seater in the Mirage III generation was something of a "light aircraft"; in
fact, it had been designed as a pure "flying" trainer; aimed at helping pilots to
learn handling the very peculiar flight envelope of the early deltas, with their
unusual stalling and spinning characteristics and very high (180 Kts+) landing speed,
which had caused so many crashes.
Therefore, the Mirage IIIB was devoid of any weapons system. Indeed, when you
wanted to fit the two 30 mm gun pack in this aircraft, you had to remove the rear
seat and put in its place a radio rack! For this reason the instrument panel
was extremely simple, yet it featured an ADF and a VOR/ILS, both of them very useful
in Flight Simulator.
On the other hand, there is on the IIIB panel no radar scope, which takes so much space
on the already crowded MIIIE panel and leaves very little room for the instruments that
are really useful in flight simulation.
I think this information might be of some use to panel designers.
I am sending you two pictures showing Mirage IIIB panels.
The first one (below left), extracted from the pilot's manual, is dated 1964
and shows an early configuration. The second one (below right), a photo
taken in 1977, shows a much later configuration. It is interesting to
note the variations between these two periods.
As I told you before, I think that the IIIB panel, devoid of radar, should be
an interesting basis for an FS panel. Note how simple the original layout
was: very few instruments indeed!
I agree with you that the "boule" ("bowl"), artificial horizon/direction indicator,
is an important feature of any Mirage panel. This, however, does not seem to
exist on any current FS panel, at least as far as I could find.
Another important feature in the combined airspeed/mach indicator. This has
a "progressive" graduation, which is very important to obtain an accurate reading
of the landing speed (which was very high, in the region of 180 Kts).
On the later panel, the heading/ADF indicator has been moved upwards to leave space
for a VOR/ILS. The conventional altimeter has been replaced by a drum type
(I don't know the correct designation in english) instrument, and it is backed up
by a conventional altimeter located besides the accelerometer, just beneath the two
"FIRE" warning lights.
This is the final installment from Michel GÉRARD
Hello Frank !
I am sending you another picture which I took during the
same flight. This time, the two Vampires can be seen, but the photo is of very
The two Mirage IIIE's had been fitted with the SEPR 841 rocket engine. On the day
we intercepted the Vampires, only one of the two Mirage IIIE's managed to light up its
rocket, and this only for a very short duration, so I did not have much time to choose
a correct angle to take the picture.
Thank you Michel, for all of your assistance and inspiration.
Unless noted otherwise, all text and photographs on this page are Copyright Michel GÉRARD.
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