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Mirage 4000

The net effect of countless subtle aerodynamic and subsystem design changes based on constant prototyping and hardware testing produced modern fighters that could hold their own against the world's best. Both the Mirage F1.C and the Mirage 2000DA/N derived from austere company-financed prototype or design concept fall-back efforts that were adopted when the government realized its much more ambitious efforts-the Mirage F2 and Avion de Combat Future respectively-would be too costly. Likewise, both programs entered a prototype phase early on in development-at least partly financed by Dassault-and before any production commitment. Furthermore, during the 1970s Dassault also continued to experiment with a wide variety of technological innovations employing test beds and prototypes such as the Mirage 4000, derived directly from proven production design.

At Le Bourget in June 1987, the Dassault-Breguet group presented one Mirage 4000, which is the twin-jet version of the single-jet Nirage 2000 fighter in use in France and abroad. The MIRAGE 4000 was the first aircraft to incorporate a large carbon fibre self-stiffened structure - the fin unit - also used as a fuel tank. Conversations with the Saudis left the impression that Riyad might be interested in acquiring 100 Mirage 4000's, since the United States had created obstacles to the delivery of new F-15 aircraft.

However, the Mirage 4000 was not operational in its present configuration, and its development, if Riyad were to follow up on the current discussions with the manufacturer, would require further experimentation, possibly at the cost of the buyer. Such experimentation would take place at Montde-Narsan, which is a specialized French air force base. The minister of defense, Mr Andre Giraud, apparently did not favor this prospect, and would prefer the Saudis to be interested in the Rafale, a lighter twin-jet than the Mirage 4000 and destined to enter into service, sometime after 1996, with the French air force and naval air, as the prime minister indicated at the Bourget show. The appearance of the Mirage 4000 was looked upon harshly by the French authorities, who do not conceal the fact that the manufacturer should not expect any official help.

The Mirage 4000 was part of a family of delta wing aircraft which started with MIRAGE III aircraft and which, later, gave birth to MIRAGE 2000 aircraft then to the "canard + delta wing aircraft". This latter configuration dates from the "MILAN" aircraft which, in 1969 with its retractable "nose fins", was the first attempt within DASSAULT to decrease the relatively high approach speed of MIRAGE III aircraft (180 kts). Then in 1979 it was the MIRAGE 4000 aircraft and in 1982 the MIRAGE III NG aircraft. The MIRAGE 4000 aircraft was equipped with fixed canard fins, designed to improve its maneuverability, which can be disengaged in caso of multiple failure of the flight control system. This gives back stability to the aircraft and enables more traditional flying control.

The Mirage-4000 Multi-Role Fighter was developed by the firm on an initiative basis. In the opinion of the firm's specialists, it can be employed for air superiority missions and for delivering strikes against ground targets. In its aerodynamic configuration the aircraft is somewhat similar to the Mirage-2000 fighter, differing from it by the presence of forward aerodynamic surfaces (in the canard configuration) and the installation of two M53-5 engines. The capacity of the Mirage-4000 fuel tanks is approximately three times more than for the Mirage-2000. In addition, it can carry up to three 2,500 liter suspended tanks beneath the wing and fuselage.

The aircraft is equipped with an RDM radar, which subsequently was to be replaced with the more advanced RDI set. The built-in armament consists of two DEFA 30-mm cannon. The variants of suspended armament accommodated at 11stations beneath the fuselage and wings are as follows: two medium-range and2-8 short-range aerial combat air-to-air guided missiles; four air-to-surface guided missiles; 27 250 kg bombs or Durandal penetration bombs; 18 Belouga cluster bombs; and 14 250 kg guided bombs.

This twin-engine aircraft enabled experimentation of certain points inherent to the configuration retained for the RAFALE aircraft. For instance, even though they are very different in size, it is important to note that at the level of the shape and sweepback of the canards arid of the position of the wing leading edge relative to the canard, RAFALE is a certified true copy of the MIRAGE 4000 aircraft.

The firm undertook development of the Mirage-4000 on its own funds with consideration of the potential opportunities for supplying it to the foreign market. One prototype Mirage-4000 was built by mid-1983 and was used for limited flight testing. Full-scale testing of the aircraft, its airborne equipment and armament would not occur until contracts were concluded for supplying it to interested countries.

The French Air Force found Dassault-Breguet's Mirage 4000 too expensive. In the case where the French Government refuses to commit itself to a given program, the industrialist in question will not go ahead with development without having found financial backing from another State. Such cases are, however, -the exception rather than the rule. This happened with This happened with Thomson-CSF's "Crotale" ground-to-air system, which was developed only after the company had obtained financing and a guaranteed market in South Africa. Originally the French Army had preferred "Roland," the competitor produced by Aerospatiale. It will only be developed if another State is willing to undertake the project (word had it that Saudi Arabia was interested at one point).

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 05-05-2013 18:42:12 ZULU