Mirage III CJ (PR) Photo Reconnaissance by RV Aircraft

1/72 scale
Kit No. 72050
Cost: $30.00
Decals: Three versions – all Heyl Ha’Avir (Israeli Air Force)
Comments: Lightly engraved panel lines and flush rivet detail; resin parts for alternate reconnaissance noses, ejection seat, and alternate exhaust nozzles

History

Although the Mirage III entered service with the Israeli Air Force in 1962, it was not until 1966 that the first Mirage III CJ reconnaissance aircraft arrived from France. Initially only two Mirage III CJ (PR) photo reconnaissance aircraft entered service with the 119th “Atalef” (Bat) squadron at Tel-Nof. As Israel begun manufacturing its own PR modifications as interchangeable camera noses, 4 or more IIICJs were modified to supplement the IIICJ(R)s. These aircraft proved invaluable to the defense of Israel in the years ahead, particularly during the 1967 Six Day War.

The Israeli Air Force (H) had closely followed the development of the Dassault Mirage III, even before it entered service with the French Armee de l’Air in October 1960. As a private company eager to promote its products, Dassault had invited IAF personnel to visit its plant and fly the new aircraft. When the MiG-21 appeared in Arab inventories, Israel placed its first order for the Mirage in 1959. While French Mirages were designed to intercept high flying bombers, the Israeli requirement was for a tactical fighter interceptor. This led directly to the development of the Mirage IIICJ.

The IIICJ was developed from the first major production model, the Mirage IIIC, which first flew in October 1960. The IIIC was largely similar to the IIIA, being less than a half meter longer and having a full operational fit. The IIIC was a single-seat interceptor, with an Atar 09B turbojet engine, featuring an eyelid type variable exhaust. The Mirage IIIC was armed with twin 30 mm DEFA cannon fitted in the belly with the gun ports under the air intakes. Early Mirage IIIC production had three stores pylons, one under the fuselage and one under each wing; another outboard pylon was soon added to each wing, for a total of five, excluding a sleek supersonic tank, which when not carried enhanced the Mirage’s bomb carrying capacity.  The outboard pylon was intended to carry an AIM-9B Sidewinder air-to-air missile, later replaced by the Matra R550 Magic, and also was armed with the radar guided Matra R530 Missile on the center line pylon.

Israeli Mirages carried more fuel tanks instead of the takeoff rocket installed in French Mirages, in addition to the two 30mm DEFA cannon. Israel’s initial order for 24 aircraft was increased in 1961 to 72 Mirages. The first IAF Mirages arrived in Hazor AFB on April 7, 1962 and entered service with the 101st Fighter Squadron. In June 1962, the 117th Fighter Squadron at Ramat-David became the second IAF squadron to operate the Mirage and in March 1964 the 119th “Atalef” (Bat) squadron at Tel-Nof begun receiving its aircraft.

The three squadrons also operated the double seated variant of the Mirage, the IIIB, which differed from the IIICs by having its interception radar removed. The first IIIBs arrived in Israel in 1966. Israel first used the Mirage (in Israel, the “Shahak”} in combat with devastating results in Operation “Moked” (Focus), in the opening strikes of the 1967 Six Day War. Early on the morning of June 5th, the Heyl Ha’Avir sent the bulk of its fighter, attack and jet trainer aircraft in a pre-emptive attack against airfields and other targets in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. The Mirage IIICJs were the spearhead, decimating Arab air forces, and completely overwhelming the few enemy aircraft that survived to challenge the IDF. Most aircraft were destroyed on the ground. The waves were composed of several formations of threes and fours. The Shahak equipped units were also earmarked for protection of the airspace over Israel.

Dassault could not have asked for a more effective advertisement. Dassault’s Mirage managed to corner a major share of the world wide market for first-generation Mach 2 fighters, obtaining the kind of export success eluded by the British Electric Lighting or the Lockheed Starfighter. The name “Mirage” had become synonymous with “advanced fighter” and nation after nation placed orders for the type.  By the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War on October 6, 1973, attrition had worn the Mirage fleet down to 40 examples. Two IAF squadrons were equipped with the Mirage during the war: the 101st and 117th Fighter Squadrons, which also operated the IAI Nesher. Operated as a dedicated air superiority fighter, the Mirage enjoyed great success during the war, scoring numerous kills. The IAF continued to operate the Mirage until 1982, by which time newer aircraft including the American F-4 and F-15 Eagle had been added to the Heyl Ha’Avir inventory.

Specifications: Dassault Mirage IIICJ

Type: single seat interceptor and gound attack fighter
Powerplant: SNECMA Atar 9C afterburning turbojet
Performance: Maximum speed – Mach 2.2; Service Ceiling – 17,000m; Range – 1,350km
Weights: Empty – 5,915kg; Maximum Takeoff – 12,700kg
Dimensions: Wingspan – 8.22 meters; Length – 14.75 meters; Height – 4.25 meters

The Kit

R.V. Aircraft’s Mirage III CJ Reconnaissance is injection molded in grey and consists of 90 plastic parts, including a two-part clear canopy. In addition, there are 9 resin parts including an ejection seat, a choice of camera noses for the Mirage III CJ or the Mirage III O, a choice of two different jet exhaust nozzles (the larger one fitting the Mirage III C, the smaller fitting the Mirage III CJ or E), and additional parts.

The kit bears a multitude of engraved panel lines and flush rivet detail, all of which is light enough that some of it may be obscured by sanding, so reinforcement of the panel lines in particular may be a desired option during construction. In the cockpit, the resin ejection seat and injection molded instrument panel both feature an exquisite level of detail, all the more impressive in 1/72 scale. Fortunately the kit is engineered to give the modeler the option to depict the canopy open or closed. There are separate parts for a control yoke and instrument panel hood, plus a profile view of how the main instrument panel and its hood should fit together once cemented. The cockpit tub offers raised detail on its flooring but no side panel details.

A curious feature of the instructions is that based on the illustration of the nose assembly, this is not a reconnaissance aircraft at all, but a standard Mirage of whatever variant. The main instructions do not acknowledge the alternative resin noses provided for the reconnaissance versions, but instead include an insert that addresses the choices to be made for the reconnaissance version assemblies. There is a one-piece wheel well to be cemented into the lower wing for a boxed-in look, and its interior features raised and recessed rivet detail for a most realistic appearance. The wings feature separately mounted flaps, strakes, and the option for either a strake, or an aerodynamically contoured booster rocket for the ventral center line of the fuselage. Parts are also provided for pylons and drop tanks beneath the wings. The landing gear and particularly the gear doors are well-detailed, inside and out.

A color plate is provided for one of three reconnaissance aircraft: a Mirage III CJ with the elongated nose, Tail Number 498, operating with the 101st “Tayset” Squadron at Chel Ha ‘Avir, late 1970’s; a second Mirage III CJ with the elongated nose, Tail Number 458, also operating with the 101st “Tayset” Squadron at Chel Ha ‘Avir, late 1970’s; or a Mirage III CJ without the elongated nose, still a reconnaissance version but operating fewer cameras, operating with the 119th Squadron, also at Chel Ha ‘Avir in the late 1970’s. All three aircraft sport a camouflage paint scheme of sand, pale green, and tan, with light blue undersides, and the colors are identified by Federal Standard numbers only. The light blue looks very much like the Duck Egg Blue used on the undersides of WWII era RAF aircraft. The first aircraft, No. 498, bears national markings consisting of the Star of David (a solid blue, six-pointed star over a white circle) overlaying, on the wings and tail surfaces, large yellow triangles with thick black borders — this is the aircraft depicted on the kit’s box art. The latter two aircraft bear the Star of David markings only.

Conclusion

This is a well-detailed kit of the dedicated reconnaissance version of the Mirage III that can nonetheless be built as a standard Mirage, due to the inclusion of standard parts for the nose. Some scratchbuilding skill will be required to build the reconnaissance version, but it does not appear to be anything major. Highly recommended.

References

  • www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org
  • www.weaponsandwarfare.com
  • www.wikipedia.org

 

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