It only seemed natural to continue the successful line of supersonic single-seat, single-engine jet-powered fighters by Dassault of France down various roads. The Cold War-era delta-winged platform, begun with the "Mirage III" model of 1961, this entry going on to see total serial production reach 1,422 units with military operators all over the globe - the French Air Force becoming the largest with 348 units accepted. The success of Mirage III has been embodied by the facst that the series continues to fly today (2019) with the Pakistan Air Force as 89 are committed to the service. Other notable Mirage family fighter forms became the "Mirage IIIV", "Mirage 5", and South African Atlas "Cheetah" - all detailed elsewhere on this site.
It was inevitable that this same aircraft family continued to be branched across efforts intended to produce an even better end-product for either local or global customers. Such was the case with the Mirage "Milan" that was proposed in the latter part of the 1960s as a single-seat, single-engine strike-minded aircraft. The design, developed through a joint-venture with the Swiss-based company "Fabrique Federale d'Avions" ("Swiss Federal Aircraft Factory" = SFAF), produced several flyable prototypes to prove the aircraft sound - a first-flight recorded on September 27th, 1968. At this point in history, the Swiss Air Force was in the running to succeed its aging stock of British-borne Hawker "Hunter" jet-powered fighters.
The key change to the Mirage III design was the implementation of retractable, forward-cranked foreplanes regarded as "moustaches". These were situated along the sides of the forward fuselage section and used to improve controlling of the aircraft at low-level, low-speed flight envelopes - mainly during take-off, landing, and attack actions. The first base development airframe was an existing Mirage 5J No.2 aircraft and this was then joined by a modified Mirage IIIR model. In time, the aircraft came to be known as the "Milan" ("Kite") and a definitive, third, prototype entry converted from a Mirage IIIE joined the development phase.
The relatively simply modification to the existing, proven Mirage III design led to an aircraft having greater Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) capabilities which resulted in greater war loads over range. Additionally, take-off runs were shortened and low-altitude handling was improved as expected. On the whole, the main form (single-engine, single-rudder fin, side-mounted intakes, tricycle undercarriage, etc...) and function of the aircraft were retained which meant that all of the strengths of the original design were still apparent throughout the Milan. Early testing with the moustache foreplanes was conducted on a Mirage platform with fixed versions of the wings, this phase completed in March of 1969.
The Mirage IIIE prototype, "Milan S-01", finished with reworked avionics and powered by a single SNECMA "Atar" 9K50 afterburning turbojet engine of 15,885lb thrust output (the changes intended to better mimic the production-quality form), took to the air for the first time on May 29th, 1970.
The production version of the aircraft was to be recognized as the "Milan S" and carry the navigation-attack system already fitted (and proven) in the SEPECAT "Jaguar" strike aircraft line. The Milan was slated for initial deliveries to expecting customers in 1972.
As completed, the strike fighter featured a standard armament fit of 2 x 30mm ADEN automatic cannons with an optional war load rated up to 8,800lb, all in the form of externally-held ordnance. Ordnance options were to include the usual gamut of conventional drop bombs of various potency, air-to-surface rocket pods, and jettisonable fuel stores (the latter to increase operational ranges). Weapons were mounted to seven hardpoints found under the aircraft include a fuselage centerline location and three under-root, underwing positions at each side.
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