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Dassault Mirage III & Mirage 5/Nesher in Israeli Service
By Nigel Baker (text) & Tom Cooper (artworks & captions)
Sep 26, 2003, 18:57

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Dassault Mirage III in Service with the IDF/AF


Acquizition
The IDF/AF purchased three models of the Mirage III:
- 70 Mirage IIICJ single-seat fighters, received between April 1962 and July 1964.
- 2 Mirage IIIRJ single-seat photo-reconnaissance aircraft, received in March 1964.
- 4 Mirage IIIBJ two-seat combat trainers, three received in 1966 and one in 1968.

Squadrons
Within the IDF/AF Mirage III served in five squadrons:
- 101 Squadron “First Fighter” (04/1962-04/1975).
- 117 Squadron “First Jet” (07/1962-10/1979).
- 119 Squadron “Bat” (03/1964-10/1970).
- 253 Squadron “Negev” (10/1979-04/1981).
- 254 Squadron “Midland” (04/1981-12/1982).

Modifications & Conversions
The Israeli AF Mirage III fleet went through several modifications during their service life:
- Photo-reconnaissance conversion: Some Mirage IIICJ were converted temporarily to the photo-reconnaissance role, before the two true Mirage IIIRJ arrival in 03/1964. Later, and after the loss in 1974 of the IIIRJ #99, some Mirage IIICJ were converted for the photo-reconnaissance role. When sold to Argentina, they were de-converted.

- Engine modifications: With the 11/11/1963 crash-landing after an engine cut by IIICJ #53 piloted by Ran Ronen, and the subsequent investigation of the aircraft and the Atar 9B engine, it was discovered that the cause for four Israeli AF Mirage IIICJ losses were the defective gasket of the fuel-injectors. Consequently, the engines were modified, although never considered as reliable.

- Engine change: After 1974, and with the end of the Nesher production, the Atar 9C output was earmarked for Atar 9B replacement in the Mirage III fleet, requiring some minor modifications in the aircraft’s tail.

- “Technolog” conversion: Mirage IIIBJ #88 was converted as trials aircraft for the Kfir development, with the J79 engine and canards.

Sales
Having purchased all the surplus Nesher S/T before the Falkland/Malvinas War, the Argentinian AF looked to Israel in order to cover her losses, purchasing surplus Mirage IIICJ/BJ and A-4 Skyhawk. The Skyhawk sale was unsuccesful due to the US embargo, but 19 Mirage IIICJ and 3 Mirage IIIBJ arrived to Argentina between 12/1982 and 02/1983.

Preserved Examples
Today, there are four Mirage III preserved in Israel:
- Mirage IIICJ #11: Preserved at the Israeli AF Museum in Hatzerim AB, it was initially painted as #159 (#59), the higher scorer in the Mirage III fleet, but sold to Argentina in 1982. With the arrival of the authentic #59 in 2003 (or #58, still not clear), logically it should recover its original serial.
- Mirage IIICJ #44: Preserved in a pole at Hatzor AB.
- Mirage IIICJ #59 (or #58): Actually at the Israeli AF Museum in Hatzerim AB still in its Argentinian AF markings, it was purchased from Argentina for a simbolic price.
- Mirage IIIBJ #88: Preserved at the Israeli AF Museum in Hatzerim AB as #988 in its “Technolog” configuration and marked as “Kfir TC”.

Attrition
Given that 19 Mirage IIICJ/RJ and 3 Mirage IIIBJ were sold to Argentina in 1982, and that - until the arrival in 2003 of CJ #58 or #59 (still not confirmed) - there were only three Mirages preserved in Israel (CJ #11 -painted as #59- at the Israeli AF Museum, CJ #44 at Hatzor AB and BJ #88 at the Museum), it must be considered that the total losses (definitive) for the 1962-1982 period were:
- Mirage IIICJ: 50 aircraft in 1962-1982.
- Mirage IIIRJ: 1 aircraft in 1964-1982.
- Mirage IIIBJ: No losses.

In 01/1969 IDF/AF decided, due to the French embargo over the 50 Mirage 5J, to rebuild all the damaged Mirage III, regardless of the costs involved. That’s why some heavily damaged Mirage were “reborn” after lenghty reparations.

Serials of Mirage IIIs in IDF/AF service
The IDF/AF Mirage III had a two-digit serial assigned for all their life:
- Mirage IIICJ: were allocated numbers between 01 and 85, evidently not consecutive.
- Mirage IIIBJ: were allocated numbers between 86 and 89, all consecutive.
- Mirage IIIRJ: were allocated numbers 98 and 99.

Until mid-1970s, the serial could have a third digit added in front. Although the exact details about the serialing system are still not entirely it is believed that it was related to different modifications or even squadron assignement. The third digits confirmed by a pic are “5”, “4”, “7”, “9” and “2”.

In mid-1970s, some order was introduced in the serials of the IDF/AF Mirage fleet, given there were five models in use (Mirage IIICJ, BJ, RJ, Nesher S and T), with similar serials. The first digit of the Mirage IIICJs was changed to “1”, that of the Mirage IIIBJs to “2” and that of the Mirage IIIRJs to “4” (including those IIICJs converted temporarily to reco, while used in this role). The Nesher S received a “5” as first digit, with the Nesher T receiving a “6” as first digit.

Camouflage Colours
There are four distinctive periods for the colors of the IDF/AF Mirage IIIs:
- 1962-1969: All the aircraft were in natural metal, with squadron markings.
- 1969-1973: All the aircraft were camouflaged.
- 1973-1980: All the aircraft were camouflaged and identificative orange triangles with black borders added to diferentiate Arab from Israeli Mirages.
- 1980-1982: All the aircraft were camouflaged with the orange triangles deleted.

Unit Insignia & Special Markings
The Israeli Mirage IIICJ/BJ wore distinctive markings peculiar to each squadron:
- 101 Squadron: Badge plus black-red striped rudder.
Above and bellow: the Shahak "52" was one of the most legendary Israeli Mirages. It was not only used to score one of the first victories for the type, but was also one of the Mirages used to score a kill against a Soviet-flown MiG-21M, on 30 July 1970, when flown by Iftach Spector. Sadly, no photographs are available showing the whole left side of the aircraft (only the nose section and the intake), so that most of the camouflage on the artwork bellow is in a "probable" position. (all artworks by Tom Cooper)








Seen here with no less but 13 kill markings, and equipped with the Tarmil camera-nose, 459 - former 259 and 159 - survived its long service career to end with the 101 Squadron as recce fighter in the mid-1970s. The aircraft was eventually sold to Argentina, in 1982, only to be - reportedly - re-sold back to Israel, in 2003: closer examination of the corresponding Mirage IIICJ in the IDF/AF Museum in Hatzor, however, revealed that the plane there is not the 59th Israeli Mirage IIICJ, but 58th.


Shahak "33" was the aircraft with which Eitan Ben-Eliyahu scored his first kill, on 8 July 1969. It is seen here as it appeared later through its service, already with additional aerial on the spin.




Shahak "777" probably seen after disbandment of the 119 Squadron and being taken by 101 Squadron, sometimes in 1970 or 1971. The aircraft was handed over to the 253 Squadron after the "First Fighter Squadron" converted to Kfirs, and was seen as "177" with full markings of the reserve-unit.


- 117 Squadron: Badge plus red stripe along fuselage side.
745 is especially interesting because of its kill-markings. At the time it was seen as shown here, shortly after the Six Day War, it wore two Iraqi and one Lebanese kill markings, indicating it flew at least one, possibly two sorties against the H-3 AB, in western Iraq, and also shot down the sole Lebanese Hunter, on 5 June 1967.


130 as seen while with the First Jet Squadron, sometimes between 1973 and 1979: still equipped with the Atar 9B engine, it was nevertheless equipped with a Tarmil recce-camera nose and used for recce operations. The aircraft was also seen wearing six Kill-markings.


- 119 Squadron: Badge plus big red chevron in the fin.


779 as seen later in its career, still in service with the 119 Squadron, but already camouflaged. This unit was disbaded as a Mirage-squadron in October 1970, subsequently converting to F-4E Phantom, while most of its mounts were taken by the 101 Squadron.






- 253 Squadron: Badge with blue rudder and white/black/white chevron.
Not much is known about 144, last seen wearing the markings of the 253 Squadron, and already painted in the same air-superiority sheme as F-15s. The aircraft wore six kill markings - including one for an Iraqi fighter, probably - but not necessarily - scored in 1967: Israeli and Iraqi fighters were to clash again in 1973 as well.


150 as seen after the war in 1973, already painted in the markings of the 253 Squadron. Interestingly, the red-black-white chevron on the blue background is usually associate with the 254 squadron, but in this case it is certain that the aircraft wore the squadron insignia of the 253 Squadron - as well as six kill markings applied in front of the cockpit.


171 as seen well after the Yom Kippour War, in 1979, already in service with the 253 Squadron and re-engined to Atar 9C. The 253 Sqn flew Neshers for most of the 1970s, but when these were sold to Argentina, in October 1979, the unit converted "back" to Mirage IIICJs which were left without assignement after the 117 Squadron was about to convert on F-16A/Bs.


- 254 Squadron: Badge with blue rudder and red/black/white chevron.


When the aircraft were camouflaged, the only other marking retained but the squadon insignia were red and white stripes over the rudder of aircraft flown by the 101 Squadron. Later, the 253 Sqn incorporated similar markings on the rudder of its aircraft, and when the surviving examples were passed to 254 Sqn the rudder markings changed the upper white chevron for a red one.




Dassault Mirage 5/Nesher in Service with the IDF/AF


Acquizition
The IDF/AF purchased two models of the Mirage 5 – named Nesher in Israeli service – and supposedly “built” by IAI; in fact the aircraft were delivered in crates from France, and then put together by Israeli technicians under US supervision:
- 51 Nesher S single-seat fighters, received between 05/1971 and 02/1974.
- 10 Nesher T two-seat combat trainers, received in 1974 (five of these were later sold to South Africa, for conversion to Cheetah D: these aircraft wore serials 858 thru 862).

Squadrons
The Israeli AF Nesher served in four squadrons during their life:
- 101 Squadron “First Fighter” (05/1971 to 04/1975) alongside Mirage III.
- 144 Squadron “Guards of the Arava” (09/1972 to 12/1978).
- 113 Squadron “Hornet” (12/1972 to 06/1976).
- 253 Squadron “Negev” (11/1976 to 10/1979).

Modifications & Conversions
The Nesher fleet was not significantly modified during its service with the IDF/AF – except that a second UHF-aerial was mounted under the nose after a better radio set was added.

Sales
In 1978, the prospect of war with Chile for the Beagle Channel Islands prompted the purchase from Israel of 24 surplus Nesher S (as Dagger A) and 2 surplus Nesher T (as Dagger B), which were delivered between 26/11/1978 and 23/12/1980. A further batch of 11 Nesher S (as Dagger A) and 2 Nesher T (Dagger B) was supplied between 29/05/1981 and 02/1982. All of them were used in the Falkland/Malvinas War.

Preserved Examples
Today, there is only one Nesher preserved in Israel:
- Nesher S #01: Preserved at the Israeli AF Museum in Hatzerim AB as #501.

Attrition
Given that 35 Nesher S and 4 Nesher T were sold to Argentina, and 5 Nesher T to South Africa (for Cheetah D conversion), and that there is only one Nesher preserved in Israel (Nesher S #01 as #501), it must be considered that the total definitive losses for the 1971-1980 period were:
- Nesher S: 15 aircraft in 1971-1980.
- Nesher T: 1 aircraft in 1974-1980.

Serials of Mirage 5/Nesher in IDF/AF Service
The IDF/AF Nesher had a two-digit serial assigned for all their life:
- Nesher S: were allocated numbers between 01 and 99, evidently not consecutive.
- Nesher T: were allocated number in the same range that Nesher S but, as the third first digit was introduced, no coincidences existed.

In mid-1970s, the Nesher S' received a “5” as first digit, while the Nesher Ts received a “6” as first digit.

Camouflage Colours
There are distintive periods for the colors of the Neshers in IDF/AF service:
- 1971-1973: All the aircraft were camouflaged.
- 1973-1980: All the aircraft were camouflaged and identificative orange triangles with black borders added to diferentiate Arab from Israeli Mirages.
- 1980-1982: All the aircraft were camouflaged with the orange triangles deleted.

Unit Insignia & Special Markings
The IDF/AF Nesher had distinctive markings peculiar to each squadron:
- 101 Squadron: Badge plus red-and-white striped rudder.


- 144 Squadron: Badge without any other markings.
Nesher S "526" as seen at the time or shortly after the Yom Kippour War. Note the hastly applied identification triangle and the slightly oversized insignia of the "Guards of the Arava" Squadron, as well as two kill markings on the nose.


- 113 Squadron: Badge with checkered rudder.
Flying this Nesher S of the "Hornet" Squadron the top Israeli "ace" Giora Epstein scored eight kills during the Yom Kippour War, in 1973.


- 253 Squadron: Badge without any other markings.
This Nesher S of the "Negev" Squadron is shown as in the mid-1970s, already with additional aerials bellow the nose and behind the cockpit, as well as on the fin.





Note:
Although Squadron numbers are classified in Israel, the relaxation in censorship during the later years and the great flood of unclassified information that appeared can assign almost with total certainity the numbers to the released Squadron’s nicknames, without causing harm to the security of the Israeli AF or the State of Israel.





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