When it became clear that the Mirage F1 was becoming a successful production aircraft, Dassault began investigating the possibility of a dedicated reconnaissance version for its most important client, the French Air Force. However, the escalating cost of fighter aircraft meant that add-on pods for this purpose were a more economical alternative.
Many French Air Force aircraft, as well as those of some export clients (such as Iraq's Mirage F1EQ), did indeed have a variety of reconnaissance pods available, which were attached to the underside of the main fuselage.
However, the development of a tactical reconnaissance aircraft for the French Air Force continued, and the first Mirage F1CR-200 flew on 20 November 1981.
The Mirage F1CR carries reconnaissance equipment, internally and externally: A SAT SCM2400 Super Cyclone infrared linescan unit is installed in the space previously occupied by the port cannon.
A space under the nose can be used for a Thomson-TRT 40 panoramic camera or a Thomson-TRT 33 vertical camera.
The Cyrano IVM-R radar has extra ground- and contour-mapping modules.
A variety of sensors can be carried in external pods carried under the fuselage centreline. These include the Raphaël TH Side-Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR), the ASTAC ELINT pod and the RP35P optical reconnaissance pod.
A total of 64 Mirage F1CRs were ordered by the French Air Force. The first air force unit equipped with the CR was Escadron de Reconnaissance 2/33 which became operational in September 1983.
The Mirage F1CT is a ground attack version of the Mirage F1C-200. Following their replacement in the air defence role by the Mirage 2000, the French Air Force had a number of surplus Mirage F1C-200s, and in 1988 it launched a conversion programme to turn these aircraft into interim ground attack aircraft to replace elderly Mirage IIIEs and Mirage Vs. The Mirage F1CT program brought the avionics of the F1C up to the standard of the F1CR, with the radar upgraded with the additional air-to-ground modes of the Cyrano IVM-R, an improved navigation/attack system fitted, with a laser rangefinder fitted under the nose. It was fitted with new Mk 10 ejection seats, while improved radar detection and warning devices, chaff/flare dispensers, and secure radios were also added. It gained the ability to carry a variety of air-to-ground weapons, including rockets, cluster bombs and laser-guided bombs, while retaining the F1Cs air-to-air armament.
Two prototypes were converted by Dassault, the first flying on 3 May 1991, with a further 55 converted by the workshops of the French Air Force at Clermont Ferrand by 1995.
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- French Air Force.
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