The Dassault Mirage F1 is a French fighter and attack aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation as a successor of the Mirage III family. The Mirage F1 entered service in the French Air Force (Armée de l'Air) in 1974. Powered by a single SNECMA Atar turbojet providing about 7 tonnes-force (69 kN; 15,000 lbf) of thrust, the Mirage F1 has been used as a light multipurpose fighter and has been exported to about a dozen nations. More than 720 Mirage F1s have been produced.
Design and development
Dassault designed the Mirage F1 as a private venture, using its own funds, as a successor to its Mirage III and Mirage 5 fighters, with the F1 being a smaller version of the Mirage F2 being developed for the French Air Force. It was of similar size to the delta-winged Mirage III and V, and was powered by a SNECMA Atar 9K turbojet as used in the Dassault Mirage IV, but unlike its predecessors, it shared the layout of a swept wing mounted high on the fuselage and a conventional tail surface as used by the F2. Although it has a smaller wingspan than the Mirage III, the F1 nevertheless proved to be superior to its predecessor. It can carry up to 43% more fuel, has a shorter take-off run and better maneuverability.
French Air Force Mirage F1
The first prototype made its maiden flight on 23 December 1966. Despite the prototype crashing on 18 May 1967 due to flutter, killing its pilot, an order for three prototypes was placed on 26 May 1967, the larger and more expensive F2 being abandoned.
In order to comply with the French Air Force's requirement for an all-weather interceptor, the first production Mirage F1C was equipped with a Thomson-CSF Cyrano IV monopulse radar. The later Cyrano IV-1 version added a limited look-down capability. However Mirage F1 pilots reported that the radar can easily overheat, reducing its efficiency. First deliveries to the French Air Force took place in May 1973, entering squadron service with EC 2/30 Normandie-Niemen in December that year. Initially, the aircraft was armed with two internal 30 mm cannons, and a single Matra R530 medium-range air-to-air missile carried under the fuselage.
It was replaced after 1979, when the improved Matra Super 530 F entered into service with the French Air Force. In 1977, the R550 Magic was released. The F1 has these missiles mounted on rails on the wingtips. Around the same time, the American AIM-9 Sidewinder became part of the Mirage F1's armament, after the Spanish and Hellenic Air Forces requested integration of the Sidewinder on their own Mirage F1CE and CG fighters. The 79 aircraft of the next production run were delivered during the period March 1977 to December 1983. These were of the Mirage F1C-200 version with a fixed refuelling probe, which required an extension of the fuselage by 7 cm.
The Mirage F1 served as the main interceptor of the French Air Force until the Dassault Mirage 2000 entered service.
Mirage F1C of EC2/30 Normandie-Niemen
at the 1975 Paris Air Show
French Air Force Mirage F1s were first deployed operationally in 1984 during Operation Manta, the French intervention in Chad, to counter growing Libyan encroachment. Four Mirage F1C-200s provided air cover for a force of four Jaguars, and took part in skirmishes against the pro-Libyan GUNT rebels.
In 1986, French Mirage F1s returned to Chad, as part of Operation Epervier, with four F1C-200s providing fighter cover for a strike package of eight Jaguars during the air raid against the Libyan airbase at Ouadi Doum, on 16 February. Two F1CRs also flew pre and post-strike reconnaissance missions.
In response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, France made two deployments of Mirage F1s to the Persian Gulf, with 12 Mirage F1Cs being deployed to Doha in Qatar in October 1991 to boost air defences, while four Mirage F1CRs of ER 33 deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Daguet in September 1991. To avoid the risk of being mistaken for Iraqi Mirage F1s, the French F1CRs were grounded during the first few days of the Allied air attacks, flying their first combat mission on 26 January 1991. They were used as fighter bombers, using their more capable navigation systems to lead formations of French Jaguar fighter bombers, as well as to fly reconnaissance missions, flying 114 sorties by the end of hostilities. Following the end of the Persian Gulf War, France deployed Mirage F1CRs to Turkey as part of Operation Provide Comfort to protect Kurds from Iraqi aggression.
In November 2004 and in response to an Ivorian air attack on French peacekeepers three Mirage F.1 jets attack Yamoussoukro airport and destroy two Su-25 aircraft and three attack helicopters.
In October 2007, three Mirage 2000s and three Mirage F1s were deployed at Kandahar Air Force Base, where they flew close air support and tactical reconnaissance missions in support of international forces in Southern Afghanistan.
The last French unit to still be equipped with the Mirage F1, was the Escadron de Reconnaissance 2/33 Savoie, home-based at Mont-de-Marsan, flying the latest version of the F1CR. The unit's primary mission was tactical reconnaissance, with a secondary mission of ground-attack. Because of the unique missions of the 2/33, their unofficial motto among the pilots has become, "Find; Identify; and Photograph or Destroy." In accordance with a bilateral defense agreement between France and Chad, two, 2/33 F1CRs, along with 3 pilots, a photo interpreter, an intelligence officer and ground crews are always deployed to N'Djamena, Chad. The two 2/33 F1CRs operated with three Mirage 2000Ds, also based on rotation from France to Chad.In March 2011, 2/33 Mirage F1CRs were deployed to Solenzara Air Base, Corsica and conducted reconnaissance missions over Libya (also a Mirage F1 operator) as part of Opération Harmattan. In 2013 2/33 F1CRs also participated in Operation Serval in Mali. On 10 January, launching from their base in N'Djamena in Chad, the first French air intervention mission against Islamist rebels in Mali, was undertaken by F1CRs and Mirage 2000Ds, supported by a French Air Force C-135K tanker. The 2/33 F1CRs provided valuable photo information for strike aircraft flying the next day from France. Later on 16 January, two 2/33 F1CRs, were deployed from Chad to Bamako, Mali. Both aircraft were fitted with extra long range 2,200 liter ventral tanks; and when operating over Mali also carried two 250 kg unguided bombs, plus their one internal 30mm cannon, in case they were called on for close air support missions.
It is planned that 2/33s elderly F1CRs will be replaced by Rafales fitted with an advance reconnaissance pod. The Rafale's range, maneuverability and combat load is far superior to the F1CR that it replaces—e.g. after the Rafale's pod has taken photos they can almost instantly be transmitted back to its base or where the photos are needed that has the down link equipment.
The French Air Force's last Mirage F1 fighters were retired from operational service on 13 June 2014. 11 single-seat Mirage F1CRs and three two-seat F1Bs will be transferred to storage, with six making a final appearance in a flypast during Bastille Day celebrations over Paris before eventual disposal.
An Ecuadoran Mirage F.1JA during the joint US/Ecuadoran exercise "Blue Horizon '86".
Ecuador received 16 F.1JAs (a variant of the F1E) and two F.1JEs between 1979 and 1980. The Ecuadorian Air Force's (FAE) squadron of Mirage F1JAs (Escuadrón de Caza 2112) went into action in January–February 1981 during the brief Paquisha War between Ecuador and Peru, less than two years after the aircraft had been delivered to the FAE. At that time, the Ecuadorians decided against directly challenging the Peruvian Air Force (abbreviated FAP), whose Mirage 5Ps and Sukhoi Su-22 were providing air cover to the Peruvian heliborne operations in the combat zone. Instead, the Mirages were kept at a distance, performing combat air patrols (CAPs) on the fringes of the combat area, in case the border clashes gave way to open hostilities. Peruvian Sukhoi Su-22 were spotted once, and an air-to-air R.550 missile was launched, but failed to strike the Sukhoi.
In 1995, during the Cenepa War, the Ecuadorian Mirages went back into action against Peru. This time, while the bulk of the squadron was kept back at Taura AFB, a small detachment of Mirage F1s and Kfir C.2s was deployed to undisclosed forward air bases to dissuade Peruvian attack aircraft from entering the combat zone. By this time the planes had been upgraded with Israeli electronics and Python Mk.III air-to-air missiles, usually mounted on the outer underwing pylons, and Matra R550 Magic AAMs on wing-tip launch rails.
On 10 February 1995, two Mirage F1JAs, piloted by Maj. Raúl Banderas and Capt. Carlos Uzcátegui, were directed over five targets approaching the combat zone in the Cenepa valley. After making visual contact, the Mirages fired their missiles, claiming two Peruvian Su-22Ms shot down, while a Kfir claimed a further A-37B Dragonfly. Sources in Peru, however, deny the claim that the Sukhois Su-22Ms were shot down by Ecuadorian aircraft, stating that one was shot down by Ecuadorian anti-aircraft artillery fire during a low flying ground-attack mission, while the second was lost because of an engine fire. Banderas served as Commander of the Ecuadorian Air Force between May 2014 and February 2016, while Uzcátegui died in a training accident in 2002 at Salinas air base, in the Santa Elena Province. In 2011 the Ecuadorian Mirage F.1s still in service were retired after having flown more than 33,000 flight hours during their 32 years in active service, to be replaced by a squadron of Atlas Cheetah fighters bought from South Africa.
Iraqi Mirage F1-EQ pilots before a mission during the Iraq–Iran War
, June 1985.
During the Iran–Iraq War, Iraq's Mirage F1EQs were used intensively for interception, ground attack and anti-shipping missions. In November 1981, an Iraqi Mirage F1 accounted for the first Iranian F-14 Tomcat to be shot down, followed by several more in the following months, giving the previously timid Iraqi Air Force new confidence in air-to-air combat engagements with the Iranians.
According to research by journalist Tom Cooper, during the war 33 Iraqi Mirage F1s were shot down by Iranian F-14s and two were downed by Iranian F-4 Phantom II units. Iraqi F1EQs claimed at least 35 Iranian aircraft, mostly F-4s and Northrop F-5E Tiger IIs, but also several F-14 Tomcats.[page needed]
On September 14, 1983, two Turkish Air Force F-100F Super Sabre fighter jets of 182 Filo “Atmaca” penetrated Iraqi airspace. A Mirage F-1EQ of the Iraqi Air Force intercepted the flight and fired a Super 530F-1 missile at them. One of the Turkish fighter jets (s/n 56-3903) was shot down and crashed in Zakho valley near the Turkish-Iraqi border. The plane's pilots reportedly survived the crash and returned to Turkey. The incident was not made public by either side, although some details surfaced in later years. The incident was revealed in 2012 by Turkish Defence Minister İsmet Yılmaz, in response to a parliamentary question by Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Metin Lütfi Baydar in the aftermath of the downing of a Turkish F-4 Phantom II in Syria, in 2012.
On May 17, 1987, a Mirage F1 fired two Exocet missiles at the United States Navy warship USS Stark as it patrolled the Persian Gulf, killing 37 members of Stark's crew. The exact motive and orders of the pilot remain unclear, although Iraq later apologized for the attack, calling it a mistake and blaming Iran.
In the opening minutes of the 1991 Persian Gulf War on 17 January 1991, an unarmed, United States Air Force (USAF) EF-111, crewed by Captain James A. Denton and Captain Brent D. Brandon scored a kill against an Iraqi Mirage F1EQ, which they managed to maneuver into the ground, making it the only F-111 to achieve an aerial victory over another aircraft.Later in the war, an Iraqi Mirage piloted by Capt. Nafie Al-Jubouri successfully downed an American EF-111 Raven through aerial maneuvering as it crashed while attempting to avoid a missile fired by Al-Jubouri. 
Coalition forces shot down several Iraqi F1s during the Gulf War. Six F1EQs were shot down by USAF F-15 Eagles during the war. Two F1EQs preparing to carry out a Beluga cluster bomb attack on Saudi oil facilities were shot down by a Royal Saudi Air Force F-15C.