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.
To commemorate 50 years of service by Mirage Aircraft in Pakistan Air Force and pay accolades to No 22 Operational Conversion Unit and No 27 Tactical Attack Sqn for their meritorious services in wartime role, a graceful ceremony was held at an Operational Base of Pakistan Air Force.
Dr. Arif Alvi, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, was the Chief Guest on the occasion. EX Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force was also present at the occasion.
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 the 1971 war. 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.
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.
Currently, Pakistan has various versions of Mirage aircraft, which include Mirage Five EF, Mirage 3DDP and Mirage Three Rose One.
As per an estimate, Pakistan in the last five decades has purchased a total of 150 Mirage III and Five aircrafts. It was first added to PAF’s fleet in 1956. The European made fighter jet had surprised people by flying at the speed of sound, during its first flight years ago.
The PAF has reportedly 70,000 active duty personal and 582 fighter jets in its fleet. Moreover, a few media reports also claim that the PAF will be replacing the Mirage aircraft with JF-17 by 2030.