- Yes, I would.
- No, I would not.
South Africa’s air force has a long history with the Mirage III and F1 families, enthusiastically using them from the 60’s until the turn of the century (if you count the Cheetahs.) Naturally, this included many variants like trainers, attackers, and interceptors, but one small group stands out above the rest as possibly the fastest Mirage III not only in the SAAF inventory but in the entire world - the Mirage IIIR2Z.
Brief history and technical description (spoilered for convenience)
The Mirage IIIR was a dedicated reconnaissance variant of the Mirage III. Developed from the Mirage IIIE, it had much of its avionics removed and was overall lighter, but still heavier than the Mirage IIIC due to its navigational computer, extra fuel and strengthened airframe. The Cyrano radar in the nose was replaced with a camera package, but the outer missile pylons and DEFA cannons were still available for self-defense. It would soon be developed into the Mirage IIIRD, featuring a heavy doppler navigational radar behind the camera pack whose weight put the plane back on par with the Mirage IIIE.
Close-up of the original RZ variant, based on the RD, whose heavy radar created a bulge behind the camera pack.
A batch of four Mirage IIIRZs, an export version of the Mirage IIIRD was ordered and delivered in the early 70’s, with four Mirage IIIR2Zs following in the mid 70’s. The RZ and R2Z (the Z representing South Africa) both had non-standard camera packages compared to the base model, using Vinten cameras rather than the original French package. The R2Z removed the navigational radar that the RD and RZ were equipped with, making it overall much more similar to the original R variant in terms of weight. Mirage IIIR2Zs would be used extensively in the Bush War for reconnaissance, with one being lost to a SAM battery. They would be retired with the rest of the Mirage IIIs when the Bush War and Cold War both drew to a close.
Mirage IIIR2Z in early camouflage pattern.
There were three major distinguishing features between the Mirage IIIR2Z and its original French ancestor. After the Bush War, as part of upgrades being applied to South Africa’s Mirage fleet before budget cuts and the Cheetah program sidelined them, the remaining R2Zs were given a locally developed RWR system using semispherical antennae, presumably better than the original Mirage III’s. Secondly, the R2Z was capable, like other South African Mirages, of using the V3B Kukri infrared missile on its outer pylons. The V3B was notable for being designed to work with an HMCS, allowing for sight-based targeting within the seeker’s gimbal limits. While the Mirage IIIR2Z very rarely carried missiles, it was entirely possible.
“Scalloped” intake for the new, hungrier engine.
The reason it didn’t carry missiles most of the time was because of its third major change - the engine. The Mirage IIIR2Z used the Snecma Atar 9K-50, as found on the Mirage F1, but in a much lighter airframe. To put things into perspective, if we were to go off the in-game values for the 9K-50 engine and not the stated 5,000/7,200 kgf static thrust, the Mirage IIIIR2Z would still have nearly as much static TWR at full fuel as the Mirage F1C has optimal TWR at full fuel. With modified air intakes to feed the more powerful engine, it was a contender for the fastest Mirage III to ever fly. Because of this, air-to-air missiles for self-defense were viewed as unnecessary, since the Mirage IIIR2Z would simply outrun its assailant. The level of confidence South Africa had in this strategy was a testament to this shooting star’s true performance.
Why it should be in War Thunder
The Mirage IIIR2Z, while lacking countermeasures and radar equipment, is a veritable hot rod with potent South African missiles adding variety compared to the Mirage’s normal armament, and unlike most recon vehicles, it’s perfectly capable of fighter combat. In fact, someone was even crazy enough to put combined fuel/rocket pods on it at one point! However, you would have to contend with the Atar 9K-50’s fuel consumption with the Mirage III’s fuel load, making conservative afterburning or drop tanks a must. This vehicle would be very welcome around the 10.3-10.7 range, where it could exploit its performance to streak through the skies searching for prey.
Collapsible specifications section
Dassault-Breguet Mirage IIIR2Z
- Span: 8.22 m
- Length: 15.50 m
- Height: 4.5 m
- Wing area: 34.85 m2
- ~6,500 kg empty (estimated)
- ~8,400 kg full fuel (estimated)
- 13,700 kg MTOW
Propulsion: Snecma Atar 9K-50 turbojet (5,000 kgf static thrust; 7,200 kgf static thrust (wet))
Thrust/Weight Ratio (full fuel, static thrust): 0.60 dry (0.86 wet)
Maximum speed: > Mach 2
- 2 x DEFA 552A 30mm cannon (125 rounds per gun, 250 total)
- 2 x Matra R.550 Magic I or
- 2 x V3B Kukri
- 2 x Matra JL-100 combined fuel tank/rocket pods (19 SNEB rockets each, 38 total)
- Drop tanks:
- 2 x RP30 1,700 liter drop tank (subsonic)
- 3 x RP62 1,300 liter drop tank (subsonic)
- 2 x RP18R 500 liter fixed fuel tank (supersonic)
- 2 x 110G 500 liter drop tank (supersonic)
- 1 x RP825 1,100 liter drop tank (supersonic)
- CRWS radar warning receiver