Moroccan Mirage F1 crashes after bird strike


A Royal Moroccan Air Force (RMAF) Mirage F1 crashed yesterday after hitting a flock of birds, forcing the pilot to eject.

The pilot landed safely and was uninjured in the incident, which occurred during a training mission close to Base Aérienne 5 Sid-Slimane. As the aircraft approached to land, it collided with a flock of large birds, causing engine failure, the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces said in a statement quoted by the MAP news agency.

The Dassault Mirage F1, along with the F-16 Fighting Falcon, forms the backbone of Morocco’s fighter fleet. The RMAF has 19 Mirage F1CH and 14 F1EH aircraft in service at Sidi-Slimane and operated by two Escadrons of Escadre de Chasse 5. Escadron de Chasse ‘Atlas’ flies the upgraded Mirage F1EH-200, while Escadron de Chasse ‘Assad’ operates the F1CH variant.

Morocco originally bought 30 F1CHs, 14 F1EHs, and six F1EH-200s (equipped with in-flight refuelling probes) from France, with deliveries commencing in February 1978. They were used extensively during the war in Western Sahara. As a result, by 1987 seven F1s had been shot down, with three pilots killed.

A total of 27 Mirage F1CH, F1EH and F1EH-200 aircraft were upgraded by Association Sagem Thales pour la Renovation d’Avions de Combat (ASTRAC), a joint venture between Thales Airborne Systems and the Safran group’s Sagem. The US$420 million upgrade was announced in 2005 and work began in 2006.

The MF2000 upgrade gives the F1s a capability similar to that of the Mirage 2000-5. It adds a night vision goggle compatible glass cockpit with digital two-colour displays, a new Head-Up Display (HUD) and full Hands On Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) controls. Other changes include a modern zero/zero ejection seat, a hybrid Sigma GPS navigation system, modern secure radios and provision for a helmet-mounted display system.

The Mirage F1’s ageing Cyrano IV radar is replaced by a Thales RC400 (RDY-3) multi-mode pulse-Doppler unit, similar to that used in the Mirage 2000-5 but with a smaller antenna giving a shorter range. Surveillance and targeting capabilities are provided by the Damocles pod, which allows the use of laser-guided bombs. Weapons options include the Magic 2, AIM-9L/M Sidewinder, Armat anti-radiation missile, AM39 Exocet and possibly at a later stage MICA missiles.

Regarding self protection, the upgrade adds a new defensive aids suite, with a new radar warning receiver, Corail flare dispensers, Phimat chaff dispensers and external PAJ FA detector/jammer pod.

Although the upgrade keeps the F1’s Snecma Atar 9K50 engine, it involves extending the lifespan and adding 4% more thrust to 16 500 lb (to 7 500 kg) through a new compressor module and redesigned high pressure turbine.