The Dassault Mirage IV was the French answer to the escalating Cold War era and the threat of nuclear attack from the Soviet Block. Very much like the British V Bomber force, the Mirage IV was part of a three way nuclear deterrent based around manned aircraft, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and submarine based weapons.
France was motivated to create her own independent nuclear deterrent following the Suez Crisis of 1956 and was designed to operate independent of NATO if needed. The Mirage IVA was manufactured entirely by the French aerospace industry, with the only concession to independence being the purchase of Boeing KC135 tankers for in-flight refuelling.
The Mirage IVA was built by Dassault in 1964 for France. Its length is 23.5 meters and its width is 11.85 meters. It weighs 31 tons and was able to fly at a speed of Mach 2.2 (2,124 km/h). It is the first European military aircraft capable of flying over Mach 2 for a long period of time; it is still the only one built in Western Europe capable of these speeds.
More than sixty Mirage IV aircraft were built and subsequently served as conventional strike and reconnaissance aircraft during conflicts including the Gulf War and Afghanistan. The last Mirage IV was retired in 2005.
Elvington and the Yorkshire Air Museum’s long standing connection with the French Air Force dates back to WW2. It was the culmination of this relationship and the Museum’s commitment to remembering the sacrifice of the 2300 French Air Force personnel who served at RAF Elvington which resulted in the unique presentation of the Mirage IV to the Museum by the Government of France. To date this is the only Mirage IV aircraft ever to be bequeathed to an independent museum and the only one outside France.
The Yorkshire Air Museum is one of Europe’s largest aviation museums and has a collection of world-renowned aircraft (Halifax Mk.III “Friday 13″, Mosquito, Spitfire, Hurricane, Messerchmitt, Harrier…). It is also the European Memorial of the Allied Air Forces.
Our Mirage IVA 45/BR (Bravo Romeo) flew for the first time on May 6th, 1966, with crew Elie Buge (pilot 1923-1967, first non-commissioned officer to cross the sound barrier) and Jean Cuny. Delivered to the French Air Force on June 3rd, 1966, Bravo Romeo completed 6,309 hours of flying and 2,975 landings. It left active duty and made its last flight on September 11th, 1991 before joining the Châteaudun base. It was then exhibited at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris from March 1995 to January 2009 before returning to Châteaudun (see below pictures. From Paris to Châteaudun).
Mirage IV FAQ
The announcement of the official clearance for the gifting of the French Mirage IV aircraft to the Museum generated a huge amount of interest from our regular aviation and memorial family followers and the international media. In order to answer some of the many things we’ve been asked about the Mirage, here’s our “Mirage IV FAQ” which we’ve collected together, that will hopefully answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
What exactly is a Mirage IV? The Mirage IV was the French answer to the Cold War threat of nuclear attack and a prime element of the nuclear triad deterrent comprising submarine launched missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles and supersonic nuclear bombers. Unlike the much smaller Mirage IIIE fighter we already have at the museum, the Mirage IV is huge, measuring 77 ft in length with a wingspan of almost 39ft.
What model of Mirage IV is it? Ours is to be a IVA and is serial Number 45 of the 66 produced in total.
Where is it right now? The aircraft is currently in protective storage at a military base near Paris until later in March 2017.
Where has it been on display? It was previously on display at the Cite des Sciences, Europe’s largest science museum located in Paris.
Why did the Mirage IVA leave the Cite des Sciences Museum? They wanted to replace it with the latest iconic Rafale jet.
Will it run live like some of our other jets? The Mirage is complete and our Aircraft Engineering Team plus our associates from France and Armée de l’Air will be considering how far to bring it back to original condition if possible.
How will you transport it? The Museum is paying all costs and the details and transportation have already been arranged by the Museum’s French Aircraft Engineering Team. It will come by road and ship.
Who has supported the project? Several French companies, one UK and one Canadian charity have generously helped fund the project. Over 30 MP’s plus former and current Cabinet Members have helped raise the profile of the project plus the French Air Force, British & French Foreign Offices; French Embassy in London and British Embassy in Paris, Groupes Lourds (French 346 & 347 Squadrons Assoc) and RAFA SW France.
What is ‘unique’ about the announcement? Several have commented that it is the first time a nuclear bomber has been gifted to a non-governement museum. This is incorrect, as there a various B52 bombers in private collections, plus of course, the museum is home to Victor XL231. What is unique is that it is the first time the French Government have released a Mirage IV to an independant museum anywhere and the first outside of France.
Are there any other Mirage IVAs preserved? The “gate guardian” at French Air Force Base 106, Merignac (Bordeaux) – the base where the 2 French Elvington Squadrons returned to in 1945. (346) “Guyenne” and (347) “Tunisie” are still wings of the Armée de l’Air and flying Rafales (bomber versions and fighters). There is a third at the French National Air Museum – Musée de Air et l’Espace at Le Bourget.
What’s the reason for wanting to have this aircraft at the Yorkshire Air Museum? It was initially a suggestion by one of the French veterans many years ago as the architect of the French Nuclear deterrent, (General Pierre Marie Gallois known as the “Father of the French A-Bomb”) was a former wartime Elvington airman, and the Mirage IV was flown in service by one of Elvington’s squadrons – 346 “Guyenne”.
Why did the negotiations take so long? Initially it was thought that it would have to be transferred to UK directly from one government to another or from the French Air Force to Royal Air Force and then “loaned” to the Museum. As negotiations at inter-governmental levels dragged on year after year with no results, the Museum took the initiative and began separate negotiations directly with the French Government.
As the reputation of the Museum has grown substantially following its organisation and support of significant Anglo/French events both in France and UK, and now that the EU has confirmed The Allied Air Forces Memorial is at Elvington, the French Government felt confident in transferring it directly to us. The Museum is nationally accredited (No.66) under DCMS and is ostensibly part of the National Collection with strict and binding rules regarding care and conservation.
The biggest question of all, when will it arrive? It is planned to be transported to Elvington in late March 2017, then reconstructed and presented for an important Anglo/French “Roll-Out” Ceremony later in the year. It will certainly be on show in time for annual The Allied Air Forces Memorial Day on September 3rd this year which this year will have over 16 countries represented.
One thing is certain, we will be sure to keep everyone updated on the progress both on our social media channels and via our blog here. Be sure to follow us on your social media channel of choice and keep checking back on the website for more news.