Dassault Mirage III

The Dassault Mirage III is a supersonic fighter aircraft designed in France by Dassault Aviation in 1954 in response to an Armée de l’Air requirement for a small single-seater all weather supersonic interceptor. The first prototype (designated MD550 Mystère-Delta, later renamed Mirage I) made its maiden flight on 25 June 1955 but trials soon revealed this design to be too small to carry a significant military load and plans were initiated to create a larger version (designated Mirage II) but this too was soon abandoned in favour of a more advanced design which would become the legendary Mirage III.

The prototype Mirage III made its first flight on 17 December 1956 and the first 10 pre-production machines (Mirage IIIA) entered service with the Armée de l’Air in July 1961. These were followed by a delivery of 95 Mirage IIIC and a number of Mirage IIIB two seat trainers.

A second phase of development began in 1961 with the Mirage IIIE with uprated engines and a capability of delivering a nuclear warload. These provided the backbone to the Armée de l’Air’s employment of the type until 1988 (although one squadron retained the type until 1994) when its role was taken over by the Mirage 2000.

A highly successful fighter aircraft, with some 1,422 aircraft in various models, being exported to many air forces around the world and remaining in production for over a decade. Some of the world's smaller air forces still fly Mirage IIIs or variants as front-line equipment today. The Mirage III is a pioneering delta wing jet that cemented the reputation of Dassault as a premier manufacturer of world-class jet fighters. With its excellent blend of speed, sophistication and simplicity, this Mach 2 interceptor became the backbone of France's air arm in the 1960s.

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