The Dassault Mirage F1 is a French air-superiority 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 F1 has been used as a light multipurpose fighter and has been exported to about a dozen nations. More than 720 F1s have been produced.
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 the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, France made two deployments of Mirage F1s to the 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 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, is 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 is 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 operate 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 sometimes in the future 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.
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