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Thrifty at Fifty: PAF Mirages.

Liquidmetal

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The sprawling complex at Kamra, west of Islamabad, reverberates at the thundering take-off of a Mirage Rose-1, the latest ageing fighter jet to have been gutted and reassembled by the Pakistani Air Force (PAF).

Fifty years after Pakistan bought its first Mirages, many planes in the venerable fleet are still being patched up, overhauled and upgraded for use in combat, years after conventional wisdom dictates they should be grounded.


Technicians work on a Mirage aircraft during a full overhaul by the PAF. — AFP


That includes one of the first two planes originally purchased from France's Dassault in 1967, which was in a hangar at Kamra after its record fifth overhaul when AFP visited recently.

The techniques they have developed are reminiscent of — but far more high-tech and lethal than — the improvised methods used to keep classic American cars running on the streets of Havana.


Senior engineer group captain Faruq Ahmad (R) inspects a Mirage aircraft during a full overhaul by the PAF. — AFP


“We have achieved such a capability that our experts can integrate any latest system with the ageing Mirages,” says Air Commodore Salman M. Farooqi, deputy managing director of the Mirage Rebuild Factory (MRF) at the Kamra complex.

Pakistan bought its first Mirages to diversify its fleet, which in the late 1960s largely consisted of US-built planes: F-104 Starfighters, T-37 Tweety Birds and F-86 Sabres.

The Mirage became a popular choice, with the Air Force buying 17 different variants in later years, eventually owning the second-highest number of the fighter jets after France.

They performed bombing missions during Pakistan's failed war with India in 1971 — one of the shortest conflicts in history, lasting just 13 days and leading to the creation of Bangladesh.




But Mirages flew on, also carrying out reconnaissance missions in India, and intercepting and shooting down Soviet and Afghan planes that violated Pakistani airspace during the Soviet war.

Usually the jet has two or three life cycles, each spanning around 12 years. But overhauling them abroad was expensive for Pakistan, a developing country whose budget is already disproportionately tilted towards its military and which has historically received billions in military assistance from countries such as the US.




So, with the help of experts from Dassault, the air force decided if you want something done for the right price, you've got to do it yourself.

Makeover
The Mirage Rebuild Factory was established at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in 1978, and in the years since has saved “billions” of dollars for Pakistan, according to Group Captain Muhammad Farooq, in charge of one of the maintenance hangars — though he said the exact figure was difficult to pin down.

The planes take some seven weeks to be overhauled and repainted, he said, adding that usually the MRF has the capacity for more than a dozen planes a year. Its calendar for the next decade or so is already booked up.




At least eight different Mirage variants, including the Mirage 5-EF, Mirage III-DP and Mirage-III Rose-I, were in one of the maintenance hangers when AFP visited.

Engineers and technicians were dismantling cockpit instrument panels and landing gear while undertaking a “non-destructive inspection”, essentially an X-ray to detect faults in the wings and airframe.

Dozens of engines awaiting overhaul were piled in one hangar. Even planes that had suffered accidents such as fires breaking out have been patched back together at the facility.




Pakistan has also been buying up discarded Mirages from other countries to bring through the facility, said retired Air Marshal Shahid Lateef.

The most important technological improvement, developed with the help of South Africa, is the ability to integrate air-to-air refuelling, Farooqi said.




The “identification of friend and foe” (IFF) system, which detects when a Mirage has been locked on to by the system of another plane, was also a key development, he said.

Grand dames
But even with the improvements and cost-saving measures, the ageing planes are becoming more difficult to maintain.

“They have outlived their lives... after their overhauls (they) have become highly unreliable, we even met with lots of accidents,” Lateef said.




The best option to replace them would be the Rafale, as neighbour and arch-rival India — which has also flown and maintained Mirages for decades — is doing, signing a deal with Dassault in 2016.

The price tag is too much for Pakistan, however, retired Air Commodore Tariq Yazdani said.

Instead Pakistan plans to replace them with the JF-17 Thunder aircraft that it co-developed and co-produced with China, the original manufacturer.




Even as it becomes more urgent to phase them out, Mirages' status as the grand dames of Pakistani military aviation cannot be dismissed, Yazdani, who has logged 1,500 hours flying them, told AFP.

It is a “very agile aircraft capable of penetrating deep into the enemy's territory without being detected by radar, which makes its sole mission — to drop bombs on the enemy's position — quite easy,” he said.

“It is an old aircraft,” said aviation writer Alan Warnes, author of two books on the PAF. “But Pakistani pilots have been flying this plane with the utmost accuracy and expertise.”

https://www.dawn.com/news/1404605/thrifty-at-50-paf-keeps-ageing-mirages-flying
 

war&peace

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A very sad state of affairs...complacency..

I used to suffer from this syndrome in my early teens as well "The obsession of keeping all my toys from my childhood"
 
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Liquidmetal

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buy modern jets is expensive and with the reputation PK has it is not easy to find sellers even if the money is available. So what choice does the PAF have? Maybe PK should have bought the J-16, or went for the Typhoon but where is the money? Nobody pays any taxes and we keep lampooning our politicans who come from the same pool of corruption as all of us.
 

HANI

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View attachment 470268

Is this even be celebrated ?
these fine men are technicians and engineers not magicians ......... look on the positive side what they have achieved for us ....... these old junks are still protecting our skies bec of these men and these efforts ..... and the experience and knowledge they have gained during all this is some thing else to be proud of .......
 

AZADPAKISTAN2009

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Mirage has done it's Job and gradually in time it will be replaced
Training missing accident are part of flying a jet engine

New shinny local parts :) and lot of tender care for now





  • Mirage need a CPU / Command center and Software Upgrade to modern stuff together with Radar upgrade


Picking up of Mirage 2000 crafts would be great extension Program if it happens
Rafale is a bit out of financial reach
 
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volatile

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ans ......... look on the positive side what they have achieved for us ....... these old junks are still protecting our skies bec of these men and these efforts ..... and the experience and knowledge they have gained during all this is some thing else to be proud of .......
Bhai no body is taking the claim or fame from these boys , A pilot is a rare commodity and if you loose a bird with pilot you lost more value of air force then the plane it self ,I hope this makes my point clearer
 

Taimur Khurram

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Let's just continue making and improving Thunders to replace them, and ensure we buy 5th gen planes from China ASAP, whilst continuing Project AZM.

That is the best strategy.
 

khanasifm

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F-104 with paf were prematurly retired due to non support from west but flown till 90s by nato countries
Greeks and Turks and many other still fly f-4s and f-5s
Pak being a third world country can not afford to replace 100 plus mirages in 6 sqn soon plus there are 4 f7p/pg sqn still left

The issue is most of spare part are coming from operators retired stocks which means their OEM life is also expired

Anyway not easy way out unless someone pays paf to go and buy like the Egyptians

For now one new jf-17 sqn per year is the tempo ie another 7-10 years
 

Zibago

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buy modern jets is expensive and with the reputation PK has it is not easy to find sellers even if the money is available. So what choice does the PAF have? Maybe PK should have bought the J-16, or went for the Typhoon but where is the money? Nobody pays any taxes and we keep lampooning our politicans who come from the same pool of corruption as all of us.
Jf-17 is its replacement but it would not be completely replaced overnight i think they will serve us for atleast 10 more years that is not the problem the real problem is replacement for f-16 should we invest in a new platform j10b oor wait for the j31 5gen?
 

Storm Force

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NO OFFENCE but THIS is THE REAL state of PAF IN 2018

100 mirage 5 which are between 40 & 50 Years old and are rightly called 3rd generation fighters

100 brand new block 1/2 thunders = budget single engine lightweight fighter with limited range & payload

52 block a/b F16 3 decades old now going through MLU

18 brand new F16/52 ..... the single most potent squadron and most expensive and most dangerous aircraft in PAF.
( PAF actually needed 100 of these NOT JUST 18)

Finally 130+ chinease MIG21 or F7


Ducking
Diving
Thinking outside the box

PAF budget is about 15% OF what Indian AIR FORCE enjoys

You REALLY NEED TO pull a RABBIT out of THE BOX
 

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