ANALYSIS , AVIATION
The Dassault Mirage III / 5 of the 21st Century: The "Rose Project" of the Pakistani Air Force
Dassault Aviation Mirage III and Dassault Aviation Mirage 5 are high-performance fighter, interception and attack aircraft (capable of speeds above Mach 2 - twice the speed of sound) that emerged in the mid-1950s and 1960s respectively, who made great success among the military and even among the general public (mainly due to the curious wing in delta of both). These models were responsible for several aerial victories and ground attack missions, resulting in great commercial success, with the sale of several units of both models to several countries of the world.
Today most of the countries that operate such aircraft have already deactivated them, many of them doing so in the first decade of the 21st century, including, among others, the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), which operated the Mirage IIIEBR / DBR; the Mirage IIIEA / DA, Mirage 5 Mara and IAI Nesher / Dagger / Finger (an Israeli version of Mirage 5); the Chilean Air Force (FACh), which operated the Mirage 50 (an update of the Mirage 5), the Mirage 5 Elkan (an update of the Mirage 5 previously operated in the Belgian Air Force) and the ENAER Pantera (a local update of the Mirage 50 ).
A Mirage IIID (in the foreground) and RAAF Mirage IIIO during a combined exercise with the USAF, the Pacific Consort (Photo: USAF)
In the meantime, an air force still uses both veteran aircraft, fully operational (being widely used recently in a conflict of February 2019) and with no prospect of replacement in the short and medium term, mainly due to an ingenious and intelligent modernization program of their electronic systems and extending the life of the cells of these aircraft. It is the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and its program of modernization and update of cells Mirage III and 5 is called the "Project ROSE".
THE ROSE PROJECT
The ROSE Project ( "Retrofit Of Strike Element" ) was announced in 1992, but its activities began in 1995 when PAF decided to withdraw the Chinese aircraft Nanchang Q-5 / A- 5 Fantan (a Chinese version of the Russian MiG-19 aircraft) from active service and replace them with modernized aircraft. The main suppliers of the program were soon selected: the Pakistani company Margalla Electronics, the French SAGEM and the Italian consortium SELEX, which provided the kits for the updating of such aircraft.
The Pakistan Air Force then began acquiring dozens of second-hand Mirage III and 5 fighter cells from Australia, Lebanon, Libya, and Spain between 1996 and 2003, at an occasion price, in addition to shipping the aircraft from PAF's own inventory for the project. More than 90% of aircraft have been upgraded in Pakistan itself; the remaining 10% were updated in France under the guidance of French technicians who oversaw the project.
Pakistan has planned to upgrade more aircraft and make even more comprehensive upgrading because other proposed upgrades have been recommended (such as the Mirage 3NG proposal), but the program was shut down due to rising costs of spare parts and poor condition of the second-hand cells of the Mirage III and Mirage 5, at the time of their acquisition, from several countries.
It is currently expected that all Mirage combat jets updated by the ROSE Project will remain in combat service with the Pakistan Air Force by the 2020s inside, primarily in tactical attack functions. They should be replaced either by locally manufactured CAC / PAC JF-17 Thunder (from future Blocks IV or V) or by new or second-hand Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters or by a fifth generation aircraft, but not until the moment no official definition about it.
HISTORY AND OVERVIEW OF THE PROJECT
In the 1990s, the United States imposed an economic and military embargo on Pakistan because its ultra-secret atomic bomb program was active since the 1970s, and one of the main actions of this embargo on the air force is the retention of delivery of new F-16 fighters, even already paid, to Pakistan. At the same time, its main rival, the Indian Air Force (IAF) began to acquire new aircraft and modernize its combat aircraft in use, thus placing great pressure on the PAF. The embargo caused a great deal of panic in the Pakistani military, as Pakistanis had many US-made aircraft and would have to come up with innovative solutions to maintain the minimum operational combat capability of these aircraft.
In 1992, the Pakistan Air Force developed the strategy to increase its capacity for self-sufficiency and immediately launched the "ROSE" and "Saber-II" programs. The latter resulted in the successful development of the JF-17 fighter. The programs began only in 1995, when then-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto released funds to the Pakistani Ministry of Defense for both programs. Despite objections from the United States, PAF was able to acquire a large number of Mirage III and 5 aircraft from several countries, including Australia, Belgium, Lebanon, Libya and Spain between 1996 and 2000.
F-16BM Fighting Falcon of the Pakistan Air Force (Photo: Asuspine / Wikimedia Commons )
The French SAGEM and the Italian SELEX were contracted to provide advice and support on military and avionics electronics in 1996. Special review facilities and projected divisions were established at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC ) in Kamra. More than 90% of the aircraft were locally adapted in the PAC; very few aircraft were upgraded in France. In this first phase of the program, designated as ROSE-I, about 33 Mirage III fighters, designated ROSE I, have been upgraded to perform various types of missions, including aerial superiority and attack missions. ROSE-I also configured 34 Mirage 5 combat jets to perform nightly operations, adapting the panel to the use of Night Vision Goggles (NVG ).
In 1998, SAGEM and Italian SELEX abandoned the project and were replaced by Pakistani companies Margalla Electronics, DESTO, GIDS and NIE. Soon after about 20 Mirage fighters were updated, being designated ROSE-II; and subsequently 14 aircraft were modified, being designated ROSE-III. The most recent Mirages purchased from Australia and Belgium were in extremely good condition with only a few hours of flight and complemented the original PAF fleet of 34 Mirage IIIE and 32 Mirage 5Ps acquired directly from France between 1967 and 1982. In 1998, the Force Air Force of Pakistan bought the entire paralyzed Mirage V fleet from Lebanon and updated them in the PAC also by the ROSE Project.
A team of the ROSE Project, made up of PAF pilots and technicians, was organized to manage the program and held frequent meetings in Pakistan and France, where some technical problems were discussed. The PAC and its technical personnel were also involved in manufacturing of new parts and quality control. The PAF test pilots validated the performance of the new equipment during test flights. In 2003, PAF purchased a total of about fifty Mirage III and Mirage 5 from Libya, recently deactivated, along with 150 engines still in sealed packages and a huge amount of spare parts. Most of these aircraft would be disassembled to secure a large number of spare parts required by the Mirage fleet already in service at PAF. With this purchase,
AIRCRAFT PRODUCED BY THE ROSE PROJECT
DASSAULT / PAC MIRAGE IIIO ROSE-I
In 1991, the Pakistani Air Force purchased 50 Mirage IIIO / D aircraft from Australia, of which 45 of the 50 fighters were considered suitable to operate in the PAF; 12 of them were soon retired and became operational. After being inspected, the remaining 33 were selected to upgrade to the ROSE Project. These aircraft were modified to the ROSE-I standard. The cockpit was modernized with a new " Head-Up Display " (HUD), controls " Hands On Throttle And Stick " (HOTAS), new multifunction displays (MFD, Multi Function Display ), radar altimeter and a navigation system and attack SAGEM. New navigation systems, including an Inertial Navigation System (INS ) and GPS (Global Positioning System ) were also installed. Defensive systems upgrades consisted of a new radar warning receiver (RWR, Warning System Radar), a suite of electronic countermeasures (ECM Electronic Countermeasures ) and dispensers flares and chaffs to confuse enemy missiles and radars.
In the foreground, a Mirage III ROSE flying with two Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16s and an F / A-18 Hornet from the US Navy (from the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier) over the Dead Sea on October 27 2010, during the Falcon Air Meet 2010 exercise organized by Jordan (Photo: USAF / Tech Sgt Wolfram M. Stumpf)
The multi-mode radar FIAR (now SELEX Galileo) Griffin M3 was later installed in a second phase of the upgrade project. It was announced that ROSE-I fighters could easily stay in service until the early 2010s. Early in 1999, it was stated that technical problems had arisen during the Grifo M3 radar flight tests on the Mirage III, but these were resolved later. The integration of a new and modern radar gave the Mirage III ROSE-I fighters the ability to fire advanced radar-guided air-to-air missiles beyond the BVR ( Beyond Visual Range ) such as the Israeli Rafael Derby used in FAB. The PAF's standard short-range airborne WVR ( Within Visual Range ) at the time, the AIM-9L Sidewinder, was integrated into the Grifo M3 radar.
The FIAR Grifo M3 radar was installed on the nose of this Mirage ROSE I (Photo: USAF / Tech. Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)
The M3 Griffin (from the same family of Grifo F-BR radar used in the modernized FAB Northrop F-5E / FM radar) has been specifically developed to meet the PAF and has been fully operational in the Mirage III since 2001. It has 200w power consumption, operates on the X-band and is compatible with IR ( Infrared ), semi-active and guided radar active guidance systems . The circular antenna has a diameter of 47cm. The radar has more than 30 different mission modes and operational air-to-air / air-surface navigation. Air-air modes include single / dual target range and scan tracking. The air-surface modes include Real Beam Map , Doppler Beam Sharpening , Sea Low / High , Ground Moving Target Indicator ,Ground / Sea Moving Target Track . Other optional modes include Raid Assessment , Non Cooperative Target Identification , SAR ( Synthetic Aperture Radar ) and Precision Velocity Update . Low, medium and high pulse repetition frequencies reduce the effects of ground interference. Digital adaptive pulse compression technology, dual channel receiver, +/- 60 degree azimuth and elevation sweep coverage, air cooling, weight less than 91 kg, MTBF ( Medium Time Between Failure) above of 220 hours. Comprehensive ECCM provisions ( Electronic Counter-Countermeasures, electronic countermeasures) and built -in test equipment (BITE ). IFF ( Identification Friend or Foe ) interrogators can also be integrated.
PAF also modified the aircraft's fuel system and installed South African-origin in-flight refueling (REVO) probes for the Mirage III ROSE-I aircraft, stating that it was a pilot program for the introduction of air refueling capability for the Mirage III and 5 of the Pakistani Air Force. There is also evidence that the Mirage III ROSE-I is capable of carrying the Ra'ad nuclear cruise missile (ALCM), whose Mark I tests were conducted between 2007 and 2016 and the Mark II version was introduced in 2017, but its actual situation is unknown.
DASSAULT / PAC MIRAGE 5F ROSE-II
Around 40 Mirage 5F / DF (34 monoplace and 6 biplace) of the French Air Force (AdlA, Armée de l'Air ) were acquired and delivered to the PAF in February 1999, of which about 20 were upgraded with an improved surface attack. The ROSE II fighters were similar to ROSE-I, except that they were equipped with sophisticated infrared guidance system (FLIR, Forward Looking Infra-Red ) and sights of SAGEM in place of radar Grifo M3. The FLIR system was mounted on a pod under the nose. These fighters became operational in 2000.
A JF-17 Thunder parked in the background, and taxiing in the foreground, a Dassault Mirage 5 ROSE hunt passes through it (Photo: X-Man / Wikimedia Commons )
DASSAULT / PAC MIRAGE 5F ROSE-III
In the late 1990s, 33 Dassault Mirage 5F fighters were purchased from France; 14 of them were upgraded to the ROSE-III standard with FLIR and other systems and modifications around 2004. A continuation of the ROSE-II, this upgrade offers better and more advanced night-accuracy attack capability to the Mirage with the addition of a new packet of navigation / attack avionics from SAGEM. The modernized aircraft went live in 2007 and became specialized in night surface attack missions.
CONCLUSION OF THE PROJECT AND OBSERVATIONS
The ROSE Project was successful and helped the Pakistani Air Force save resources that could be spent on a new modern combat aircraft, as they modernized a large number of aircraft using a fraction of those resources. During the planning of this program, new upgrades were considered and the PAF also received a proposal for the acquisition of a batch of the Dassault Mirage 2000 multifunction fighter from the Qatar Air Force, subsequently refused in favor of acquiring additional Mirage III and / or 5 used.
In 2003, PAF purchased another 13 Mirage III from Spain as a source of spare parts, as unlike the Australian and Lebanese aircraft, they could no longer return to active service as they were heavily worn out. Problems have been found for the upgrade of the Mirage 5 in the naval attack variant for the Pakistan Naval Air Aviation . However, this was eventually solved by purchasing more spare parts. Because of the program, PAF has gained a strong international reputation for expertise in maintaining and updating Dassault Mirage.
Pakistan Air Force officer works at MIrage III ROSE during Falcon Air Meet (FAM) 2010 exercise at Azraq Air Force Base, Jordan, October 20, 2010 (Photo: USAF / Tech. Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)
Despite the challenges and problems, the ROSE Project provided a modern combat platform for the PAF and helped the Pakistani aircraft industry gain the experience and confidence to undertake any similar project in the future, while the Mirage received new capabilities that dramatically improved its performance in combat . Internationally, Pakistan's ingenious and creative skills have made Mirage continue to play an important role in the defense of Pakistani airspace. The project was expected to continue for some time after 2003, but the Pakistan Air Force chose to close the program later this year because of a combination of high operating costs, lack of resources and aging of Mirage III and 5 cells.
Such skills in developing and applying the ROSE Project also helped the Pakistani aircraft industry to develop its JF-17 Thunder fighter, presumably the replacement for the Mirage III / 5, and become one of the pillars of the Pakistani Air Force today.
Currently, the Pakistani Air Force operates about 90 Mirage III and 137 Mirage 5, all modernized, with multiple cells stored and a large number of spare parts. The Pakistani Navy operates 12 Mirage 5, also modernized. There is no forecast for the withdrawal of service from these aircraft, but the Pakistani government estimates for after 2030.