The Mirage III was designed to meet a French Air Force specification for a light-weight all-weather interceptor. The Mirage I was the prototype built for the contract. After initial testing a larger version the Mirage II was proposed but was replaced by the Mirage III with an improved engine before it was built. After its first flight in November 1956 further refinement of the design led to the Mirage IIIA which on October 24, 1958 became the first Western European designed aircraft to fly faster than Mach 2 in level flight. The Mirage III entered French service in 1961. The Mirage was exported several countries including Israel, South Africa, Argentina and Pakistan. Both Australia and Switzerland license built versions of the Mirage for their Air Forces.
The Swiss aircraft were built by F+W Emmen, a government owned factory in Emmen, Switzerland. Extensive changes were made to the aircraft including a significantly stronger airframe and the adoption of American avionics. Two versions of the aircraft were produced. The Mirage IIIS was the fighter version of the aircraft and the Mirage IIIRS was a reconnaissance aircraft which replaced the radar in the nose with a suite of cameras. Cost overruns and other delays resulted in only 36 fighters and 18 reconnaissance planes being built. They served from 1967 to 2003.
Swiss Air Force, Fliegerstaffel 10, Buochs Airfield, Switzerland, 2003
Pima Air & Space Museum
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