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MIRAGE METAMORPHOSIS

By Brian Weston

AVM (Ret'd) Brian Weston (who clocked up well over 2,000 hours as a Mirage pilot, and served in 3SQN from July 1970 to September 1972) has sent in some nice photos of what he witnessed of 3SQN’s various changes of “plumage” in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

Brian writes:

When 3SQN re-formed as a Mirage squadron, it received the Mirage IIIOA (attack) model.  These were the last 50 Mirages to come off the line, with the first 50 having been Mirage IIIOF (fighter).  The earlier OF aircraft were painted silver and were later upgraded to OA with radar, doppler, rad alt, avionic mods, paint, etc.

As the first squadron to receive the ground-attack (GA) capable Mirage, 3SQN was given the role of developing GA tactics.  So rather than being a 100% air defence (AD) squadron or a 50/50 AD/GA squadron, 3SQN was formally tasked as being an 80% GA squadron, with only 20% of its flying allocated to AD work.  In accordance with that directive, the Mirage IIIOAs were painted in a heavy green/olive (jungle) camouflage scheme; these Mirages were referred to as “lizards”.  3SQN deployed to Butterworth in February 1969. 


1970.  No tail decoration.

When 3SQN went to Butterworth it took the very last Mirage IIIOAs, the ones that had the extra 55 gallons of fuel built into the leading edges of the wings.  This took place concurrently with the return of 77SQN Sabres to WLM, and with the deployment of ten refurbished Avon Sabres to Butterworth as a gift to the RMAF.  (I flew one of those Sabres to Butterworth).

As for the 3SQN paint scheme, although the Squadron had adopted the frill-necked lizard as its (unofficial) logo, the squadron’s Mirages remained unadorned.   Only the 3SQN badge (an official RAAF decal) was affixed to the left side of the aircraft nose.


Brian’s air-to-air shot showing the 3SQN badge below the windscreen. 
This example seems to have had a peeling leading-edge tamped down with “1,000 mph tape”!

However, the pilots placed the “frill-necked lizard sitting inside the orange numeral 3” on their helmet visors, and elsewhere around the place.  


Brian’s ‘selfie’ (taken long before they were fashionable) in a ‘lizard-decaled’ helmet,
en route to Tengah on the standard flight plan of ‘direct’ heading (141 deg magnetic) at 41,000 feet.  
[Brian was also the Sqn NavO.]

This 3SQN scheme remained in use from 1969 until January 1971.

In January 1971, it was decided that 3SQN should “dress up” its aircraft a little more.  There were lots of suggestions including trying to develop the earlier 3SQN schemes from Sabres and Mustangs.  But the deciding factor was that the RAAF Engineering fraternity did not want a tailored scheme for each squadron; it wanted a largely standardised scheme – to make things easy for the 478 (and 481) Maintenance Sqn paint shops – and not to have too much repainting of aircraft when Mirages were moved from one squadron to another.

As the paint shops already had the “three dart” template used on the tails of 75SQN, 76SQN and 2OCU aircraft, 3SQN was asked (told) to work up something using the existing “three dart” tail template.  It was painted in orange & black for 3SQN; as distinct from black & white (75SQN), red & black (76SQN) and yellow & black (2OCU).  The “lizard” was added as the central tail motif, inside the “three dart” tail flash.  


Lizard Tail Decoration, 1971

The 3SQN badge (an official RAAF decal) remained affixed to the left side of the aircraft nose.  This 3SQN scheme remained in use from January 1971 until early 1972.

In January 1972, pressure came upon 3SQN to cast away its unofficial “frill-necked lizard” logo.  Indeed, an official dictum was issued to all RAAF squadrons to use only the motifs from their official squadron badges.  That meant 3SQN had to use the “flaming grenade and fleur-de-lis” on the tailfin.  

The use of the official 3SQN Badge decal on the left side of the nose was also discontinued, as they tended to tear off at high speed!  This paint scheme remained in use from early 1972 until much later.

 

Two more pix from Brian's collection:


High Tech!  The Mirage cockpit. 
- Apparently this instrumentation allowed the 'Lizards' to navigate alone at high-speed and low level, at night or in bad weather... 
[Yikes!]


Lizard beats Lightning…
A 74SQN RAF Lightning F6 being embarrassed in Brian’s gunsight.
(Taken during a regular Tiger Rag deployment to RAF Tengah, before the Brits withdrew to ‘East of Suez’.)

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