Author Topic: Just some drawings  (Read 2509 times)

Offline polluxdeltaseven

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Just some drawings
« on: October 04, 2015, 07:48:15 AM »
Hi everybody !
Some of you may remember me from the old whatifmodelers forum. I've been out of what-if for... well, for years now, due to some real life issues. I wont say I'm back (still a lot of work to do), but I recently start drawing again and after some time, I asked myself: "Why not drawing the planes you don't have the time to realize as models ?".

So, here it is, an upgraded Mirage IV. Sorry for the LOOOONG backstory, I imagined it a long time ago but updated it with more recent operational history ;)

Mirage IVRT

In the early 90's, the nuclear mission of the French Air Force is about to be transfered from the Mirage IVP to the smaller but newer Mirage 2000N. Sixteen Mirage IV are still operational at this time, and in pretty good conditions, with excellent operational status, but an old nav and attack system, badly adapted to modern conflicts.
At first, the Armée de l'Air planed to keep only half the surviving Mirage for recce missions only. But a ministry of defense study supported by french industry proposes to adapt a larger number of airframe to both recce and fast reaction conventional strike missions. The point was to get a conventional strike force able to attack far away with only few preparation time, exactly what the Mirage IV and its crews were trained to do.
The Gulf War experience was critical in this decision, as it was obvious for the Armée de l'Air officials that there was a real gap between their first day of operation capabilities compared to the UK and, of course, the US. A massive firepower was not needed, but the plane has to be able to operate alone with almost no support: the main purpose was not to engage massive bombings (it is not and will never be a B-52) but to support French interests in the Mediterranean and in Africa (and then avoid the fiascoes and semi-failures of air-strikes in Lebanon and against the Polisario).

Thirteen airframe were modernized by Dassault, Thomson CSF and SNECMA, the remaining three planes being use for training and tech support purposes. the new version of the plane is known as Mirage IVRT (Reconnaissance et frappe Tactique, Recce & Strike)

The changes include:

-Change of the engines from Atar 9K to Atar 9K-50 (6,6t of thrust to 7,2t each). The additional power being use for better performances (or equal performances with bigger drag) and more power for electronic systems.
-The belly radar is removed. The central session of the fuselage is then reworked in order to include an additional internal fuel tank and a hard point for a pod mounted Antilope 50 radar. It is the same terrain following and ground target designation radar that is entering service with the Mirage 2000D (nose-mounted) and that was planed to equip the canceled Mirage 4000 (pod-mounted)
-Alongside the radar pod is a semi-recessed laser designator system, the PDLMS, a dedicated variant of the PDLCT with improved daylight capacities.
-The self protection system is also widely improved with all the jamming systems being placed inside the airframe, in order to free the external hardpoints. Even is the nature and the exact location of all the subsystems is classified, new antennas appeared on the side of the nose, under the tail, and the optical system under the cockpit clearly replace by some jamming system.
-Studies were made about changing both the pilot and navigators instruments to a glass cockpit, but it was judged too costly for an End Life Update. The pilot cockpit remain mainly unchanged, except for the introduction of a dedicated GPS-viewer and NVG. But the navigator cockpit was highly modified with a similar configuration than found on the Mirage 2000D.
-Communication systems were upgraded too, and the aircraft fitted with a last generation IFF.

A study was made in order to put the radar and the PDLMS in the nose of the plane, with a retractable refueling probe being put a little forward, but it quickly appears that it was to costly for a very limited interest.

After the war in Kosovo, the 13 Mirage IVRT received a last modernization. It includes the replacement of the French build BGL-400 and BGL-1000 by US GBU-12/16/24, the introduction of the SCALP-EG cruise missile and (for 8 aircraft only) the introduction of an electronic war external pod in order to give the Armée de l'Air a similar capability than the US Navy and its EA-6B Prowler.
Industrials proposed adapters for 4 GBU-12 under each heavy hardpoints, but the Armée de l'Air point out that the Mirage IVRT is used for fast "hit and run" attacks at long distance, not for long loitering CAS missions (by the way, the gunner/navigator doesn't have the adequate side looking angle of view for such a mission). A modernization of the AS-30L supersonic missile was preferred and the missile remain the main weapon of the Mirage IVRT.


Configurations:

-The lateral forward hard-points that exists since the beginning of the Mirage IVA are finally open. They will be fitted with a single BGL-400 laser guided bomb or, later, with a GBU-12 or GBU-16. Classical Mk82/Mk83 bombs could be fitted, including with Snakeye kit and air-burst fuses. Twin launcher similar to the one used by the Mirage 2000 was proposed but never bought by the Armée de l'Air.

-The outer wing pylons were modified in order to carry a single AS-30L laser guided missile ou a BGL-400 guided bomb. They are also able to carry a single Magic II air-to-air missile, but the plane rarely use them in operation, it's main defense being its speed, not its dog-fight abilities.
Later, these pylons will be adapted to carry a single GBU-16/Mk-83 or two GBU-12/Mk-82.
They are still able to carry external self-defense electronic or chaff/flares pods, even if these capabilities are now internal to the airframe.

-Inner wing hard-points could carry the exact same weapons than the external ones, at the exception of the Magic II missile. Moreover, they are able to carry BGL-1000 (later GBU-24) heavy bombs and 2500 liters external tanks.
In 2006, all the aircrafts receive the ability to carry Scalp-EG cruise missile on these hard-points, and only 8 were cabled to carry the new high-power jamming and electronic recorder pod that also enter service this year with the Mirage F1CR (centerline pylon) and will be later fitted under the Rafale aircraft (up to 3 pods and 2 external tanks).

-Finally, the centerline position could be fitted with three different kind of equipments: a semi-recessed fuel tank of 2200 liters, a strategic reconnaissance pod, or a semi-recessed combined fuel tank and hard point. The later could carry 1300 liters of fuel and a single heavy hard point for AS-30L missile, twin BGL-400/GBU-16/GBU-12 bombs or a single BGL-1000/GBU-24 bomb.
In 2006, the pylon was adapted for carrying the SCALP-EG missile and, for the 8 aircrafts fitted with, the new generation jamming pod.

Note that the primary weapon of the Mirage IV RT remain the AS-30L (and later AS-30R). The efficiency of the missile relies on its terminal attack speed of more than Mach 2 and its incredible kinetic energy, alongside its payload. While the missile was slowly being phased out in favor of the more versatile GBU-12 in French services, the Mirage IVRT give it a real come back. The AS-30L was the only weapon that allowed the Mirage IVRT to fly at supersonic cruise speed with a full complement of weapons.
Soon, the most common weapon configuration of the aircraft became 2 (or 3) AS-30L missiles and 3 (or 2) fuel tanks only, and it remains like that until the introduction of the SCALP cruise missile.

Operational use:

-The operational career of the Mirage IVRT begin in the exact same operational theater that led to its creation: Iraq, with operation Southern Watch. In July 1998, two Iraqi MiG-25 unsuccessfully tried to intercept a single Mirage IVRT during a recce mission over Al-Assad Air Base. Even if the aircraft was armed with a pair of Magic II, the Mirage crew avoid succeeded in avoiding contact and flew South in supersonic.

-The first fire came in Kosovo, where 6 Mirage IVRT did most of French recce flight for air strike planning. But they also realize some night air strikes since the second day of operations, destroying bridges, air defense sites and command centers, mainly using AS-30L fired at supersonic speed, but also some BGL-1000. Using its high supersonic cruise speed, the Mirage was able to realize air defense suppression air-strikes that were usually only tasked for F-117 and SEAD aircrafts. It was the first time ever a Mirage IV of any variant dropped a live weapon in operation. The Armée de l’Air was very satisfied with the aircraft in special air operations during the conflict and decided to refit one last time the aircraft with minor modifications, including new weapons, new generation IFF, NATO compatible Data Link, extended range laser designator and cruise missiles. These modifications were incrementally implemented through the planned maintenance processes, from 1999 (GBU-12) to 2008 (Link 16 and GBU-49).

-The Mirage IVRT spent most of its career in Afghanistan, with a first tour as early as 2001 from al-Dhafra Air Base (UAE), then Dushanbe in Tadjikistan and, later, directly from Kabul until they final tour in 2012. It is rumored that few flights were conducted over Afghanistan from al-Dhafra in 2014 to support combined US-French special operations, but it is most likely that those flights were directed against ISIS troops in Iraq. Most of the flights of the Mirage in Afghanistan were done for intelligence and reconnaissance purposes, but the Armée de l’Air confirmed in 2002 and later in 2009 that the Mirage IV were sometime used in order to strike time sensitive targets (but never during TICs or any other CAS operation).

-In 2003, the Mirage IV RT served once again in Irak under UN command for reconnaissance missions. The two deployed aircrafts were back home just one day before the Iraq invasion started.

-The new offensive abilities of the Mirage IVRT acquired after the Kosovo air campaign were widely used in Libya in 2011. The first day of air-strikes, the Mirage IVRT and the Rafale were the first aircrafts to enter Libyan air space over Benghazi, even if rumors said that both the Mirage IV and French Navy Rafale did some recce flights few days before the war begun. While the Rafale were tasked to CAS strikes in and around Benghazi, 4 Mirage IVRT were tasked for SEAD missions, two being armed with AS-30R (converted AS-30L with new rocket engine and better range), two only equipped with fuel tanks and jamming pods. The Mirage were mostly used for reconnaissance and SEAD missions during the first week of operations, with the exception of a single SCALP mission, once again with Rafale. They later conduct some recce missions but were replaced in this task by the Rafale M of the Charles de Gaule aircraft carrier as soon as the ship arrived near the Libyan coasts.
The operations over Libya were precisely what the aircraft was upgraded to do: quick reaction air-strikes and intelligence missions right in the middle of French geographical interest area, with no other support than the KC-135.
A Mirage IVRT was lost while landing at Solenzara Air Base, in Corsica. A bird-strike occurred while the aircraft was in final approach. The pilot succeeded in reaching the runway with only quarter power, but the vertical speed was too high and the aircraft collapse on its legs. The crew went OK, but the aircraft was damaged beyond repair.

-Even if there is no official record for this, a L’Express journalist confirmed rumors saying that the Mirage IVRT was used in the failed attempt to free hostages in Somalia in January 2013, but also later this year over Syria in order to prepare the strike planed with Saudi Arabia and the USA but later cancelled the US. All in all, the double recce/strike mission, its fast reaction ability and the cultural secret surrounding its crew and ground staff made the Mirage IVRT the favorite aircraft for special operations.

-Still in 2013, the Mirage IV RT were once again the first to strike in Mali (once again alongside the Rafale). Two aircrafts were deployed in Africa to provide recce missions over the wide area of Northern Mali. But the Air Chief of Staff decided that, while his Mirage were due to be deployed there, he could use their travel to conduct the first strikes, exactly like the Rafale did.
While the Rafale were fitted with 6 AASM each, the two Mirage IVRT were armed with 6 GBU-12 (2 on the rear pylons, 4 on two double rack under the external wing points). 9 of there 12 bombs were fired during their way to their new base.
The Malian conflict is the only one were the Mirage IVRT did almost all their recce missions with air-to-ground weapons, mostly a pair of GBU-12/49 or airburst Mk82 bombs.
The Mirage IVRT did four tours in Mali, in alternance with the Mirage F1CR and the French Navy Atlantique 2 armed patrol aircraft.


But the Libyan and Malian conflicts also showed that the Mirage IVRT replacement, the Rafale, is already here and really potent. Not as fast as the Mirage, but more versatile, able to do recce, SEAD, cruise missile strikes, with a great range and far cheaper operational costs. Even is the airframes could still fly until at least 2020 (there’s hardly a single piece of the aircrafts that weren’t already replace since they first enter service in the 60’s), it was decided that they will be retired in late 2015.
But it’s most likely that the Mirage IV will still be here for one or two more years that planed. Indeed, some of the Rafale B and C that were planed for entering Armée de l’Air operational service in 2015 and 2016 were sold and delivered in emergency to Egypt. These six Rafale were due to replace the eight remaining Mirage IVRT, and the Armée de l’Air is still working on how to deal with this change. Moreover, the French implication in the war against ISIS, particularly in Syria, led the Air Chief of Staff to postpone the retirement of the Mirage until the end of the conflict.
Last week, the defense ministry Jean-Yves Le Drian explained that the two Mirage IV that were deployed with four Rafale in al-Dhafra were tasked to strike missions against an ISIS training base in Syria (probably using GBU-24 bombs). A third Mirage IV is said to join them in the next days in order to maintain the recce abilities in the area, while conducting some strike missions in Syria and Iraq.

Born from the experience of the Gulf War, the Mirage IVRT will likely finish its career in Iraq were it spend numerous tours.
 

The Mirage IV shown here is in a rare asymmetrical configuration, carrying :
-2 airburst Snakeye Mk82 (one under each wing)
-1 AS-30R laser-guided medium-range missile
-2 GBU-49 (one on each side of the fuselage)
-1 semi-recessed 2200 liters fuel tank
-1 semi-recessed PDLMS-ER laser-designator pod
-1 Antilope 50 navigation and attack radar pod
-1 external 2500 liters fuel tank
It was spotted above Mali from a C-135FR tanker. While carrying a single AS-30 missile, the Mirage IV usually carry it in centerline, with a 2500 liters tank under each wing. During the first days of operations in Mali, the need for a time sensitive "AS-30 mission" lead no other choice than removing an underwing tank of a ready to fly aircraft, which was faster than removing the centerline conformal tank.

Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Just some drawings
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2015, 07:49:32 AM »
Wow!  Great to see you back mate.

Love the image above too.
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

Online Jeffry Fontaine

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Re: Just some drawings
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2015, 07:57:49 AM »
^what he said! 

Good to see you back. 

Beautiful Mirage IV by the way.
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Offline polluxdeltaseven

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Re: Just some drawings
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2015, 08:01:59 AM »
Thank you ! It's good to be back !
Glad you like the drawing, I was a little scared of the final result (the perspective on the missile and tank, this kind of things), and I worked too long on it to be objective now ;)

Offline kerick

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Re: Just some drawings
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2015, 11:02:13 AM »
Nice to see you back! Awesome entry (or reentry?) to the forum!
If you filled in the background you would have a nice work of art. :-*

Re: Just some drawings
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2015, 05:05:25 PM »
Holy moly! Awesome drawing skills!

Re: Just some drawings
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2015, 05:07:56 PM »
Excellent story Pollux  8)

I really love the Mirage IV and an old model still in progress (Heller 1/48th) will surely come again on the bench with those idea you gave me (instead of a boneyard project). Your drawing is really inspirationnal. I hope you will do 1 or 2 more of this beautiful aircraft if you have time for it  :-*

Offline polluxdeltaseven

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Re: Just some drawings
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2015, 08:56:43 AM »
Excellent story Pollux  8)

I really love the Mirage IV and an old model still in progress (Heller 1/48th) will surely come again on the bench with those idea you gave me (instead of a boneyard project). Your drawing is really inspirationnal. I hope you will do 1 or 2 more of this beautiful aircraft if you have time for it  :-*

Thanks for the comment, I'm glad it could inspire real 3D models ;)
I was thinking of the Mirage IVC, the smaller interceptor variant that was canceled maybe?

Nice to see you back! Awesome entry (or reentry?) to the forum!
If you filled in the background you would have a nice work of art. :-*

I follow your advice, but it's not very easy to see the result after scanning. It's all in light shades of light grey, based on the pictures I have of actual refueling of French fighters over Mali (very dusty atmosphere, it's basically blurry blue on top and blurry sandy brown at the bottom). But I add the wingman in the background  ;)
« Last Edit: October 12, 2015, 08:58:40 AM by polluxdeltaseven »

Offline Glanini

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Re: Just some drawings
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2015, 01:47:43 AM »
So glad to see you back  :)