The Dassault Mirage F-1, a photographic overview from the last five years of an iconic fighter operated by the Armée de l’Air.
Part two: 2012-2013.
In 2012 de Armée de l’Air planned three Meetings National, but only a month before those events budget cuts downgraded all those planned meetings to a one day event with only French participants. Therefor I skipped a visit to Mont de Marsan but luckily Laurent could visit the spottersday which was held on Saturday 2 June. One of the eyecatchers was a special decorated Mirage F-1CR 655/33-FB marked with 100 years escadrille SAL 6 ‘la Mouette’ or seagull. On the fuselage all the planes since the establishment in 1912 with pictures from a Deperdussin till Mirage III-R were displayed in a film.
On Bastille Day 2012 I drove to Evreux to see the departures for the annual National Parade above Paris hoping to see for the last time a Mirage F-1CT in the air but sadly only three Mirage F-1CR participated. Luckily all three F-1’s returned for fuel, because all other participants departed after they flew above Paris immediately to their home base.
Only a few months later, on October 16 2012 the last flight from the F-1CT 226/118-QS towards Châteaudun ended the operational history in the Armée de l’Air from this fighter.
When the Government of Mali in January 2013 asked for military assistance to fight the jihadists which threatened their country also two Mirage F-1CR’s were deployed for the last time to participate at Operation Serval. One of the participating aircraft, F-1CR 617/118-NE, had twelve mission markings underneath the cockpit referring to this operation from the French Military in Africa when I saw this aircraft during a visit at BA118 at Mont de Marsan in April 2013.
In total I spend two days outside the base, although it’s not so easy to take decent pictures from landing aircraft with high trees which blocks the view but the nice variety from based aircraft as Alpha Jet, Rafale, Mirage F-1, Mirage 2000 and TBM700 made it worth to travel to this interesting airbase. Besides those based aircraft also some visitors could be noted as several Belgian and French Alpha Jets passed by, but a brand-new M-346 of the Republic of Singapore Air Force was for sure a highlight.
The mean reason to visit Mont de Marsan was the spottersday organized by ER 02.033 Savoie on April 11, one day prior to the official ceremonies to commemorate the ‘Centenaire de la Cocotte’ or ‘100 years BR11 Cocotte’, one of the three escadrilles from ER 02.033. For this anniversary the Mirage F-1CR 604/118-CL, an aircraft which also participated at Operation Serval earlier in 2013, had a stunning pixel camouflage ‘1913–2013, 100 Ans de Reco'. This Mirage F-1 carried also a huge external fuel tank with a capacity of 2300 litres, designed for the Iraqi Air Force but due to an embargo never delivered. This colourful Mirage visited afterwards also the RIAT in the UK and was a welcome guest in the Mach Loop, a low fly area in Wales.
2013 was also the 30th anniversary of the Mirage F-1CR in service by the Armée de l’Air. Besides other aircraft also several F-1’s departed during the day and could been photographed from several spots near the run and taxiway. Two F-1’s made a high speed flyby along a replica of a Breguet XIV, an aircraft that was used onwards 1917 by BR11 and showed with pride the ‘Cocotte’ on the fuselage.
Not common to see but during the spottersday one Mirage F-1CR 646/118-NW departed with a rare Presto Pod fitted underneath the fuselage.
More weapons, armament, and fuel pods which all could be fitted underneath a Mirage F-1 could been seen in front of a Mirage F-1CR that was exhibited outside. All the participants from the spottersday were awarded with beautiful photobook ‘L’oeil de la reco’ when they left the base a bit earlier because of heavy rainfall.
One year before their retirement announced for 2014 ER 02.033 participated in several exercises abroad. After the festivities at Mont de Marsan four Mirage F-1CR departed to Leeuwarden for the annual Exercise Frisian Flag edition 2013.
At the end of April four Mirage’s F-1CR from the French detachment touched down at the air base of Siauliai in Lithuania for the Baltic air policing which lasted four months to protect and guaranteeing the airspace of the sovereign Baltic States Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. During the summer 2013 campaign some Mirages were marked with Russian Stars, attached under the cockpit, to testify their successful interceptions from Russian aircraft. F-1CR 658/118-NQ was marked with five stars and 654/118-NC even with 6 stars.
Meanwhile from 19 till 22 August two Mirage F-1CRs and one F-1B visited the air base of Savasleyka, situated about 200 km east of Moscow, for a Franco – Russe joint exercise to train reconnaissance, ground attack and mixed patrol flights together with the MiG-29UB and MiG-29 SMT.