On the surface, the Dassault Mirage III was an unqualified success, and one of the most significant military jets ever. It was RAAF’s first fighter capable of flying at twice the speed of sound, and its longest-serving, too, operating from 1965 until 1988. Worldwide, 1,401 were built, which served in 21 countries, clocking a combined 3 million flying hours.
You don’t, though, hear much about how it got there. The lesser remembered Mirage I was designed in 1953 to be a light interceptor, with its raised pilot’s seat, retracted air intakes and slender nose built to provide pilots with unobstructed views. But it lost favour when it became clear it was limited by its lack of engine power, making it ill-suited to its purpose. An updated Mirage II design was considered but later discarded, in favour of a more ambitious overhaul towards Mach 2.
The Mirage III was a bomber fighter aircraft with a delta wing designed two years later. After several incarnations and improvements, it finally hit twice the speed of sound for the first time in western Europe by legendary pilot Roland Glavany in a Mirage III A 01. France made an order for 100.
In RAAF service, the Mirage operated with Nos. 3, 75, 76, 77 and 79 Squadrons, as well as No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit and the Aircraft Research and Development Unit, replacing the existing fleet of Sabres. After more than two decades of service, it was eventually phased out to be replaced by the F/A-18 Hornet. The last of No. 75 Squadron were ferried to Woomera for eventual disposal.
Yet, the story didn’t entirely end there, with a number of Mirages retained by RAAF as training aids. A3-92 was used at the RAAF School of Technical Training at Wagga Wagga before it was moved to the RAAF Museum for preservation, where it remains.