Armour Collection B11E369 Swiss Dassault Mirage IIIS Interceptor - Fliegerstaffel 16, Stans, Switzerland, 1989 (1:48 Scale)
"Obsolete weapons do not deter."
- British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
The Mirage III family grew out of French government studies begun in 1952 that led in early 1953 to a specification for a lightweight, all-weather interceptor capable of climbing to 18,000 m (59,040 ft) in six minutes and able to reach Mach 1.3 in level flight.
Dassault's response to the specification was the Mystere-Delta 550, a sporty-looking little jet that was to be powered by twin Armstrong Siddeley MD30R Viper afterburning turbojets, each with thrust of 9.61 kN (2,160 lbf). A SEPR liquid-fuel rocket motor was to provide additional burst thrust of 14.7 kN (3,300 lbf). The aircraft had a tailless delta configuration, with a 5% chord (ratio of airfoil thickness to length) and 60 degree sweep.
The tailless delta configuration has a number of limitations. The lack of a horizontal stabilizer means flaps cannot be used, resulting in a long take-off run and a high landing speed. The delta wing itself limits maneuverability; and suffers from buffeting at low altitude, due to the large wing area and resulting low wing loading. However, the delta is a simple and pleasing design, easily built and robust, capable of high speed in a straight line, and with plenty of space in the wing for fuel storage.
The first prototype of the Mystere-Delta, without afterburning engine or rocket motor and an absurdly large vertical tailfin, flew on 25 June 1955. After some redesign, reduction of the tailfin to more rational size, installation of afterburners and rocket motor, and renaming to Mirage I, the prototype attained Mach 1.3 in level flight without the rocket, and Mach 1.6 with the rocket lit in late 1955.
However, the small size of the Mirage I restricted its armament to a single air-to-air missile, and even before this time it had been prudently decided the aircraft was simply too tiny to carry a useful warload. After trials, the Mirage I prototype was eventually scrapped.
Dassault then considered a somewhat bigger version, the Mirage II, with a pair of Turbomeca Gabizo turbojets, but no aircraft of this configuration was ever built. The Mirage II was bypassed for a much more ambitious design that was 30% heavier than the Mirage I and was powered by the new SNECMA Atar afterburning turbojet with thrust of 43.2 kN (9,700 lbf). The Atar was an axial flow turbojet, derived from the German World War II BMW 003 design.
The new fighter design was named the Mirage III. It incorporated the new area ruling concept, where changes to the cross section of an aircraft were made as gradual as possible, resulting in the famous "wasp waist" configuration of many supersonic fighters. Like the Mirage I, the Mirage III had provision for a SEPR rocket engine.
This particular 1:48 scale replica of a Mirage IIIS was flown by the Swiss Air Force during 1989.
Historical Account: The Swiss Air Force (Schweizer Luftwaffe, Forces aeriennes suisses, Forze Aeree Svizzere) is the air component of the Swiss Armed Forces. It was established on July 31st, 1914 but did not become a separate service until 1936. During World War II, it defended Swiss airspace against incursions by both Allied and Axis aircraft, shooting down aircraft from both sides of the conflict.
A report in the Swiss news magazine FACTS reveals that the Swiss Air Force only provides ready-to-take-off aircraft during office hours - on working days.
The air force staff declared that, due to financial limits, they are not operational all the time. The difficulty of defending Swiss airspace is illustrated by the small size of the country; the maximum extension of Switzerland is 348 km, a distance that can be flown in little over 20 minutes by commercial aircraft.
Further, Switzerland's policy of neutrality means that they are unlikely to be deployed elsewhere.
Its primary front-line air-defence fleet consists of 33 F-18 Hornets (Squadrons: 11, 17, 18. 34 were originally bought, but one crashed) and 54 remaining F-5 Tiger IIs (110 were originally purchased). In 2010 the Swiss Air Force intends to begin the retirement of the F-5 in the three squadrons (Patrouille Suisse, 8th, 19th) that use it and hopes to acquire a New Warplane/Neues Kampfflugzeug (NFK) as replacement. As with the earlier F/A-18 procurement conducted in the late 1990s, this is expected to prove a politically fraught procurement due to Switzerland's socialist, anti-army and green groups, which are all opposed to such purchases. The Patrouille Suisse will need to change to a new aircraft, either the F/A-18 Hornet or the new fighter. The Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and the Saab Gripen are being considered, with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet rumoured to having been discarded as a choice due to hangar-size discompatibilities.
In 2011 the Swiss Air Force will also be retiring its venerable fleet of 60
Aerospatiale Alouette III, which will be replaced by Eurocopter EC-635s. The national aerobatic demonstration team of Swiss Air Force is the Patrouille Suisse, which flies the F-5 Tiger II aircraft.