X Boeing 737 600 (Westjet) Revell 144 The Little Aviation Museum

Boeing 737-600 (Westjet, C-GWSB, 2009)

(September 2021)


Many modellers like to tell stories with their models and do it in the form of dioramas or vignettes which describe in model form a moment in time and the people, machines and places of that moment.  In this way one model and its setting tell one story.

I also like to tell stories with models, but in a different way.  As a historian I am interested in the changes that take place over time and so I like to use models to illustrate change.  As a result, these nine separate models tell one story.

This story was written as five separate contributions to the Modellers of Ballarat newsletter between April 2005 and August 2007.  It tells the story of the Mirage IIIO in RAAF service and also the process in which these models were made.

(April 2005)

In the early 1950s the first truly supersonic fighters – MiG-19, F-100 and Super Mystere – were about to enter service and development of the following generation of fighters was under way.  The next target were mach 2 fighters capable of reaching high altitudes very quickly and most nations found a different way to get there.  They all had in common a powerful afterburning turbojet engines that was necessary to achieve such speeds, but the airframe design offered much more obvious differences.  Out of this era came the thin swept wings of fighters such as the BAC Lightning, the stub winged F-104 and the compromise delta of MiG-21s and Su-7s.  The other promising option was the pure delta wing platform that had been developed in Germany during the war.  The delta wing offered many advantages and it was adopted by Convair in the United States for their F-102 and F-106 interceptors and B-58 supersonic bomber.  In Europe the French company Dassault chose to use that wing shape for the replacement for its Mystere generation of fighters.

The first Dassault delta winged fighter was the MD.550 Mirage I (initially also bearing the Mystere name).  It made its maiden flight on 25 June 1955 and reached mach 1.3 in December 1956.  However the Mirage I was a very small aeroplane with a length of only 11.5 metres and lacked the potential for development.  Instead Dassault designed the Mirage II with two 1500kg turbojets, but when those power plants were cancelled, it was redesigned with a single Atar engine and redesignated the Mirage III.  In January 1957 the prototype Mirage III reached mach 1.8, a remarkable achievement for the time.  However, to enable it to reach mach 2 some refinement was necessary and the wing was redesigned and a more powerful Atar engine installed.  This new aeroplanes was designated the Mirage IIIA and ten were ordered.  The first one flew on 12 May 1958 and exceeded mach 2 in level flight on 24 October that year.

Most of the Mirage IIIAs were used to test various aircraft systems including the airframe, engine and avionics and the final three were virtually identical to the first production version, the Mirage IIIC.  The first production Mirage IIIC flew on 21 October 1959.  The French government ordered the new fighter for the Armee de l=Air and ultimately 184 Mirage IIICs were produce, 95 for France, 72 for Israel, 16 for South Africa and one for Switzerland.

The Mirage IIIC was a dedicated interceptor.  The next major design development was the Mirage IIIE to be a multi-role interceptor and all-weather ground-attack fighter.  It was fitted with a more advanced radar and the fuselage was lengthened to increase the fuel capacity.  The first Mirage IIIE flew on 5 April 1961 and 188 were ordered for the French air force.  It quickly began to attract overseas interest and teams from interested buyers went to France to test the Mirage, including a team from Australia.

I’ll be showing my age when I recall that I waited expectantly for the Airfix Mirage III kit to arrive in the shops.  Mirage IIIs were just beginning to appear in Australian skies and here was my opportunity to make one for myself.  But when it finally arrived I discovered it was the Mirage IIIC, and not a terribly good kit at that.  Still, I was determined to make myself a Mirage IIIO and so I did what everyone who read the Airfix Magazine did, I got some balsa wood and made the conversion to a IIIO myself.  The end result was not edifying, and my attempt to hand paint the kangaroo markings was dreadful.  I wonder what happened to that model in the end?

A decade or so later Frog announced it would be releasing a Mirage III with alternative decals for a French Mirage IIIE or an Australian Mirage IIIO.  I rushed to the shop, bought it and took it home to make.  I still have it.  The nose probe has long since gone, as has one of the Sidewinders and other bits and pieces.  In retrospect it is not a great kit, but in the days before the Revell and Heller kits it was a good basic kit that did the job.  It still is.  Of course there is now the High Planes [limited run] kit which is, if their earlier kits are anything to go by, really first class if a little challenging to put together.

Over the years there have also been a few decal sheets released with good decals for Australian Mirage IIIOs and I’ve picked them up when I’ve seen them.  At one time there was also a resin set of bits and pieces to make the conversion from a IIIE to a IIIO complete, including a more than passable ejector seat, and I collected a few of them.  To top off my collection of Mirage IIIO stuff I have four of the Frog kits that I bought up one day in the late 1970s when I heard Frog were going out of business.  I bought a lot of other Frog stuff, some of it now quite rate, but I bought all the Mirage IIIs I could see in the newsagents (those were the days, when the newsagent around the corner had almost as many kits as Hearns Hobbies).  So, for the past 25 years or so I’ve been putting all this stuff together.  Time now, I reckoned, to do something with it all.  By using the four kits and restoring the already made model I should be able to make the three major schemes in which the Mirages flew in RAAF service, plus a couple more colourful versions.

A really serious modeller would buy five High Planes kits and do it properly, but the Frog kits are good honest no-nonsense kits.  I=m using them because I=ve already got them and because, as everyone has probably found to their dismay, models made from kits produced by different manufacturers usually look different.  As just one example, the Frog kit is 5mm longer behind the wings than it should be, while the Heller kit isn’t, and you can imagine how that would look if the models were displayed together.

Logically, the first model would be the first scheme flown in Australia.  The first Mirage IIIOs were flown in bare metal but that didn=t last long and they were painted aluminium to control corrosion.  So I pulled out the first kit and the appropriate set of Hawkeye decals and started.  The model I ended up with was not what I had intended.

Find out what happened in the next exciting episode!

(June 2005)

By the mid 1950s the RAAF was starting to think about a replacement for its Avon Sabres.  The Air Staff began collecting detailed information about the new generation of fighters being developed around the world and had decided, in mid-1957, that the air force would order 30 Lockheed F-104s.  However, before the decision could be formalised it was cancelled and more Avon Sabres ordered.  The F-104 was rejected because it was too expensive, at about ,1 million each, and too complicated.  The search for a Sabre replacement began again in 1958 with the Lockheed F-104, the Northrop F-5 and the McDonnell F4H (later F-4) the prime contenders, alongside the BAC Lightning.  By 1959 the F-104G had emerged as the front runner and its order seemed merely a formality.

Suddenly the Dassault Mirage III entered the competition and quickly emerged as a prime candidate.  It was a pleasure to fly, relatively simple to manufacture and operate and fitted the RAAF’s requirements.  In mid 1960 a technical team went to Europe and the United States to make a detailed evaluation of the Mirage, F-104 and Northrop F-5 and on 15 December 1960 the Australian government announced that the Mirage III would be ordered for RAAF service and that it would be licence manufactured in Australia.

The Australian version of the Mirage was designated the IIIO and differed from the French Mirage IIIE in 178 relatively minor engineering differences.  They included such things as relocation of the radar screen in the cockpit, deletion of the doppler navigation/attack radar and replacement of the small rocket motor in the rear fuselage by more fuel capacity.  The government made two major decisions about Mirage manufacture in Australia; preferring the Government Aircraft Factory over CAC as the prime contractor and deciding to retain the Atar engine over the possible installation of the Rolls Royce Avon, due mainly to the fact that the conversion to operate with the Avon did not offer any worthwhile increase in performance.

The first two Mirage IIIOs were manufactured in France and the first (A3-1) made its maiden flight on 14 March 1963.  The following eight or so Mirages were assembled in Australia from components sent from France and the first locally assembled Mirage IIIO (A3-3) flew from Avalon for the first time on 16 November 1963.  Most later Mirages were made locally although a later handful used airframes imported from France when inability to employ skilled staff and strikes at GAF interrupted production.  The final single seat Mirage IIIO was A3-100 delivered in December 1968.  An additional number of dual-seat Mirage IIIs were also delivered to the RAAF.  The total cost of the Mirage III project was about $260 million; the cost of early  aeroplanes was $1.665 million each and later ones $1.731 million.

The models

A3-72, 77 Squadron 1981.

The first Mirages in RAAF service were flown with polished bare metal, but that didn=t last long because of the corrosion problems that followed.  Only the earliest photos show this bare metal finish that could be replicated, but not with great ease.  To overcome the corrosion problem the aircraft were given an overall coating of aluminium laquer and most images from this period of the Mirage=s operation show this finish.  The Hawkeye decal set AAF-34 is for a 76 Squadron Mirage from this period so that is where I started.  However, the instruction sheet recommends the application of FS17178 that Model Master calls ‘chrome silver’.  I wasn’t convinced about this and should have stuck with my earlier experience that Humbrol 11 silver is a good representation of the aluminium laquer finish.  On went a coat of FS17178 and as soon as it was on I knew it was wrong, the model was so bright it almost glowed in the dark.  I tried overspraying it with a coat of Humbrol 11 but it was still far too shiny.

White sprayed over silver comes up nicely so that was the only viable option.  Fortunately I’d bought a Microscale sheet of Mirage IIIOs years earlier that included colours for an all-white special colour scheme and so the problem was relatively easily solved.  There was the problem of the missile rails I had fitted, the under-wing rails came off easily enough but I=d secured the central pylon with a couple of wire pins and it refused to budge so it remains, accurate or not.

After a couple of coats of semi-gloss white the model was ready for its decals.  If you can find the decal sheet (72-515) you would find it useful to also find photos of the aircraft it replicates because there are a few differences between what the instruction sheet shows and what was on the aircraft that were painted in this scheme.  Most importantly, the decal sheet provides red, white and blue stripes to go under the wing where, I=m sure, there weren’t any.  There was most likely a blue diamond shape under the wings that I fabricated out of chunks of the cut up blue under-wing stripes.  The only addition needed are small A3-72 number to go on the rear fuselage that aren’t supplied on the decal sheet but I made them on the laser printer.  The end result is an elegant little model.

A3-3, 76 Squadron 1968.

Having decided that good ol’ Humbrol 11 is the better choice for the aluminium finish I got it right the second time.  Then I discovered a couple of problems with the Hawkeye decals.  The most important is that the instructions are not very helpful and neglect to mention anything more than that the airframe is silver and the nose is black.  Again a shuffle through as many photos as you can find is useful, and the first thing you find is that the details of the aluminium finish changed quite a lot over time.  Most notably, in the early days the Mirages had roundels on the wing tops but later they didn’t.  There are also variations in the size of the black nose cone, the red markings around the intakes and the tail flashes.  The decals themselves are fairly transparent so the set comes with white decals to put on the model to help them stand out.  Most dismaying is that the red around the intakes and upper fuselage is quite imaginative but don’t fit.

Fortunately, the Microscale sheet has decals for A3-3 that flew with 76 Squadron and although their red flashes are just as imaginative, they fit a bit better.  More importantly, the decals settle down very well with Micro Set and so, with a lot of fiddling, I was able to get the red flashes looking very nice.  The rest of the model used a combination of Hawkeye and Microscale decals.  The only addition not provided in either decal set was some wing top roundels that I scrounged from the spares box.  The end result is another very attractive model that may be more to do with the elegance of the real thing as much as my modelling skills.

(December 2005)

The RAAF used its Mirages in two primary roles; air superiority and ground attack.  The aircraft themselves were initially produced as fighters and ground attack with the first 50 single seaters produced as fighters and the second 50 as ground attack aircraft.  Later the first 50 were retrofitted with ground attack avionics so that all Mirage IIIOs could undertake both roles.  The pilots who were trained to fly the Mirages were also trained in air fighting and delivering ordnance against ground targets.

The first RAAF unit to take delivery of the new Mirage IIIOs was No 2 Operational Conversion Unit, based at Williamtown in New South Wales.  It had been in existence for many years, training and converting pilots to fly the air force=s front line fighters.  When the Mirages began arriving the unit handed on its Sabres and began the task of training Mirage pilots for the operational squadrons that were planned to be formed.  The first single seat Mirages arrived at 2OCU in the second half of 1964 and two twin seat aircraft arrived in late 1966.  The course the pilots went through had two parts, a general course covering basic fighter tactics and air to ground weapons delivery.  This was followed by a six month course dedicated to the Mirage where the pilots learned the skills necessary in front line operations.

This training equipped pilots with both sets of skills but this didn=t mean that Mirages and their pilots were not fully proficient in both skills.  In fact, Australian pilots enjoyed engaging opponents from many friendly forces in all kinds of aerial activities and built up a good collection of camera gun photos of most of the West=s best fighters from some of the best units.

Another early unit to accept Mirages IIIOs was the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) based at Edinburgh in South Australia.  It’s Mirages were used to develop and test the Mirage’s capabilities to introduce new tactics and equipment.  The small number of Mirages that went to ARDU remained there for most of their operational life, undergoing a number of modifications during their work.

The RAAF’s Mirages also served with a total of five operational squadrons, initially based at Butterworth in Malaysia and Williamtown on Australia=s eastern coast.  Late in their career Mirages were also based at Darwin.  The first unit to operate Mirages was 75 Squadron that was officially converted to them on 1 August 1965.  The other squadrons to later be equipped with Mirages were 76 Squadron, 77 Squadron, 79 Squadron and 3 Squadron.  All these squadrons had illustrious histories as fighter squadrons during World War II and all flew Sabres before converting to Mirages.

The models

A3-2, ARDU, c.1970s

Many years ago a local company called Roodecals produced a decal sheet for various RAAF Mirages.  Depending on your ability to cannibalize roundels from somewhere else, this sheet made it possible to make at least three different Mirages.  It was an exceptionally useful sheet but I haven=t seen it around for a while.  Recently I acquired another copy on eBay and, as it turned out, I needed them both.

One of the more esoteric versions of the Mirage made possible by this sheet is a colourful ARDU version in canary yellow and very dark green (so dark it looks more like black).  The instructions with the sheet are very helpful about where the marking go so the only trouble is in getting a decent coverage with yellow.  There must be a secret to getting good yellow coverage on models but nobody has let me in on it yet.  As a result I put on countless coats of yellow paint and only stopped because the poor model was in danger of disappearing under all the paint.  It is far from perfect, but as good as I dared manage.  When it came to putting on the decals I found they were quite transparent so I ended up using many of the decals from both sheets, just to give the markings satisfactory density.  Then, on with a couple of gloss cote and a buff up with some very fine sandpaper.  The end result is fairly spectacular, if you don’t look too close.

A3-100, 3 Squadron, c.1970s

In the late 1960s I went to one of the wonderful air shows the RAAF used to put on at Laverton every year.  (Everything was on display and no expense was spared.  On one memorable occasion seven or so F-4s came up from behind the crowd at not much below mach 1.  The noise was astounding.)  At one of these shows I saw my first Mirage in the new three-colour camouflage scheme.  At that stage of my modelling career I=d learned that metallic finishes were very difficult to achieve realistically so when I saw this Mirage in its new colours I was immensely relieved because I would be able make a decent model of one at last.  Almost 40 years later I got around to it.

These days the aluminium scheme is easy to do and the three colour camouflage gave me all the trouble.  The first question was simply what greys and green they were.  (In the old days ‘dark grey’ and ‘green’ would have been quite sufficient but these days we’ve got used to getting FS numbers with everything.)  Eventually I decided to go with what looked right rather than getting too flustered, so I ended up using FS36118 Gunship Grey and Humbrol 30 green on the top and Humbrol 28 light grey below.  All camouflaged Mirages used the same general pattern but with some flexibility, so that wasn’t too difficult to achieve.

I applied a couple of coats of gloss coat for the decals and found again it was often necessary to use both sets to get good colour density.  The Frog kit decals were also for A3-100 so I used some of them instead.  Then came the problem of the gloss leading edges; everyone knows about them but nobody says how far back they go.  In the end I made an educated guess that looks good enough to me.  The finished model looks nice, but rather drab in comparison to the other Mirage models I’ve made so far.

(May 2006)

My mum used to say; `If you can’t find something nice to say it’s best to say nothing’. On the other hand, in the most recent issue of his journal, Frank Morgan exhorts us to give feedback to the people who give Australian modellers the materials we need to make replicas of what we see in our skies.  I tossed a coin and it came down heads. Sorry, Mum.

If one is dense enough to want to make a series of RAAF Mirage IIIO models one might need a bit of assistance in going about it. It is often useful to know a bit of history about the subjects being modelled and to learn from the experiences of others some of the problems to be faced and some of the solutions to those problems in making these models.

Stewart Wilson, Meteor. Sabre and Mirage in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications, Weston Creek, 1989.  To begin with Mum’s suggestion, the good thing about this book is that it is better than nothing. This book is one of a series of similar title that Wilson churned out, all to the same format and all written in obvious haste.  (The way the three type histories in each volume differ in format makes it clear that Wilson gathered together the most easily obtainable material for his work). For the modeller there are plenty of photos and quite a few side view drawings – of ordinary quality. Before I got into the history business I might have considered this a useful if not excellent book; but now that I have an idea of how decent history is put together and presented I can only recommend this book as being useful in giving an introduction to the topic of RAF Mirage Ills.  But if you can’t find a copy I’d say you’re not missing much.

Gary Byk, The Modeller’s Guide to the RAAF Mirage IIIO/D, Red Roo Models Publications, 1996. It was only after I’d made the first couple of Mirage III models that I discovered there were quite a few things about RAAF Mirages I didn’t know. The most galling was a simple point. I spent hours staring at as many photos of Mirages as I could find but I could not work out how far back the wings the gloss leading edges went on the camouflaged versions.  I became obsessed about this and looked in all kinds of obscure places for this tidbit of information, but with no success. Then I saw advertisements for this book and quickly ordered a copy because, I assumed, it would solve my problem and perhaps give me a few clues on other problems too.  Back to my Mum’s reminder.  If I should seem crabby about this book it is only because I’d developed quite a respect for Gary Byk’s work over the years and, in reality, for those who have not already been forced to do a lot of research for themselves this would be a very useful book.  There are potted histories of the aeroplane, the units that flew it, many well captioned pictures and some good painting guide drawings.  There is also a lot of material on various details of the aeroplane that would suit a modeller wishing to create a highly detailed replica that were of little interest to me.  However, there was not a hint of information on the one topic that I really wanted help about in this book – the fact that the leading edges of camouflaged Mirages were gloss is only mentioned in passing and no detail given about how wide they were. I was not impressed, surely this is a key bit of information for anyone making a RAAF Mirage IIIO. There were other little omissions that also annoyed me.  In the section about the quality of the various kits available the Frog/Novo/Eastern Express kit isn’t mentioned.  It may have its problems but it seems to be the only 1/72 Mirage III kit readily available on shop shelves these days.  There is a very interesting section setting out the various colour schemes RAAF Mirages flew in. but after having looked at a lot of photos I’m not sure I’d draw all the conclusions this book does.  Equally annoying. there are generic sections about things like decals and using various modelling techniques that have been written about many times in other places.  Not that I’m objecting to them being reiterated for new modellers, I just object having to pay good money for this information when I’m after information about modelling Mirage Ills.  I could go on; crab, crabby crab, but I’ll only raise my blood pressure to no good end.  In summary, not for me but others might find it useful.

As an addendum; there is apparently a new book out that covers Mirage IIIOs in great detail.  I’ve read good things about it but so far I haven’t seen a copy.  But I’m not sure that I want to.  After having made six of my planned series of Mirage IIIOs, I’m not sure I want all my mistakes pointed out to me in glaring glossy colour.

The models

At this point in the project I ran out of old Frog kits.  However I managed to pick up a couple of reissues of the Frog kit on eBbay.  One was in a Novo box. which is where the kit first appeared in its Russian guise.  The second was a Chematic kit that probably comes from Poland.  The kits in these guises lacked some of the crispness of the Frog kits but the parts are identical and so construction is the same for these kits as for the earlier ones.

A3-42, No 2 OCU, during Operation Pitch Black 1984

Red Roo Models have been doing a lot to provide modellers with gap filling models and decal sheets.  Their Mirage IIIO kit is very nice and only the cost (and the fact that I’d already collected four Frog kits) stopped me using their kits for this project.  They have also released several sheets for RAAF Mirages in 1:48 and now they are releasing them in 1:72 as well.  Their first release was for 20CU and it is an excellent decal sheet with instructions that are even better, if that is possible. The sheet gives you the options of standard silver, grey and green and two tone grey versions, as well as an unusual green and earth scheme that was apparently flown in 1984.  I wasn’t able to find any photographs of this Mirage but I’m a trusting soul.  More to the point, I wanted every Mirage I made to be in a different scheme and this variation allowed me to do that.

Construction followed the usual pattern; by now I was used to all the little quirks this kit has.  The camouflage pattern is exactly the same as the standard grey and green Mirages with the earth brown replacing the grey. The end result looks good, and novel.

A3-60, 75 Squadron, Butterworth, September 1987

I picked up a very nice sheet of decals for various Mirages including obscure South American Mirage 5s, a nice Armee de 1’Air Mirage IIIC and a two tone grey 75 Squadron Mirage.  To make this version a little bit different again, by the late 1980s some RAAF Mirages were flying with supersonic tanks acquired from Israel and Matra Magic missiles.  I cannibalised the tanks from an as-yet unbuilt Hasegawa Kifr and the Matra Magic rails came from the little bag of Plane Bits Mirage IIIO resin parts.  The Matra Magics came from the spares box.  The trouble with the Hasegawa tanks was that they were wasp-waisted while the RAAF tanks weren’t; but that’s what filler is for.  The trouble with the Plane Bits missile rails was in joining them to the kit launch rails.  I’m going to have to find a supply of those beta blockers that billiards players use to stop their hands from shaking…

Some of the markings almost disappear against the blue-grey upper surface colours. tending to make the model a little drab. Even so, it looks good alongside the other models.

August 2007

In 1981 the Australian Government announced it would acquire 75 McDonnell Douglas F-18s to replace the RAAF=s Mirage III fleet.  The first RAAF F-18 flight took place in Australia on 26 February 1985, 2OCU began its first conversion course for F-18s on 19 August 1985 and No 3 Squadron, the first to fly F-18s, took delivery of its first aircraft in August 1986.  In the meantime the RAAF=s Mirage IIIOs continued in service.

The first RAAF Mirage III squadron to be withdrawn from service was 76 Squadron which was disbanded in 1973 due to budget cuts.  When 2OCU converted to F-18s No 77 Squadron became the RAAF’s Mirage training unit and conducted its final Mirage III conversion course in February 1986 and began conversion to F-18s in July 1987.  When No 3 Squadron at Butterworth in Malaya was withdrawn to convert to F-18s in 1986 No 79 Squadron was reformed to take over the Mirage IIIs there.  It remained in existence until April 1988 when its Mirages IIIs returned to Australia and the squadron was disbanded.  No 75 Squadron and ARDU were the last RAAF squadrons to fly Mirages.  In October 1988 the last 75 Squadron Mirages were flown to Woomera for storage and the final RAAF Mirage III flight was an ARDU Mirage (A3-101) ferry flight to storage at Woomera on 8 February 1989.

In 1990 the Pakistan government bought the 50 remaining RAAF Mirages, 43 Mirage IIIOs and 7 Mirage IIIDs.  Pakistan had been acquiring second-hand Mirage IIIs and 5s from various sources and converting them for use in the Pakistan Air Force which was, by this time, the world=s largest Mirage III operator.  In Pakistan the Australian Mirages were refurbished, originally it was thought that only 20 to 25 could be made operational but eventually more than 40 airframes were refurbished and put back into service.  Some of the wings were beyond economical repair so the Pakistan Air Force bought fourteen sets of zero-times wings from South Africa and mated them with the Australian Mirages.

The avionics were upgraded to include a new heads up display, HOTAS controls, defensive chaff and flares and a new and improved radar system having a look-down  shoot-down capability.  These refitted Mirage IIIs were given new serial designations, 90-5xx for the Mirage IIIOs and 90-6xx for the Mirage IIIDs.  The last two digits of the RAAF A-numbers were retained so it remained easy to identify their original RAAF serial numbers through the new Pakistan Air Force numbers.  All the RAAF Mirages went to No 7 (Bandits) Squadron, 31 (Fighter Ground Attack) Wing, PAF where they had a joint air defense and attack role.

The models

I’d used up all my Frog Mirage IIIs and a couple of other re-issues I’d picked up on eBay and I was beginning to get worried that I wouldn’t have enough kits to complete this set of Mirage IIIOs.  Fortunately I happened to see a couple of Eastern Express Mirage IIIEs in a well known Melbourne shop that turned out to be yet another re-issue of the old Frog kit, and at around $12 each, so I snapped them up.  They are exactly the same as when Frog first molded them but a lot of the crispness has gone out of them and there is a bit more flash.  Still, they did the job.

A3-81, 79 Squadron, 1988

I needed to make a 79 Squadron Mirage IIIO to complete the set of Mirages that had flown with Australian units.  The only decals available were on a sheet that came with the High Planes Mirage IIIO and that was for an experimental scheme.  While I had no objection to that I’d come across some photos of some of the 79 Squadron Mirages taxiing in after their ferry flights to Woomera and I thought it might be appropriate to model one of them instead.  They were a mixture of dark grey and green and light grey camouflage schemes and I decided to make this model in the old dark grey and green schemes since the Mirages spent most of their time flying in that scheme.  There was a particularly good photo of A3-81 taxiing in so I decided to do it.  The big trouble was that there were no decals available for the tail insignia.  I bought the Hawkeye decals for the Macchi in the hope that they might be useful but that proved not to be the case.  The only solution was to make them for myself.

I’ve recently bought a colour laser printer so I can now do colour (apart from white) so I set out to make my own decals.  This was made much simpler using the 79 Squadron coat of arms on the RAAF web site and a scan of similar tail markings for other squadrons as a basis, but I still had to find the right colours and get the software to do the kinds of things the programmers had apparently never thought anyone would want to do.  I spent an afternoon battling away on the project and got part of the way before I gave up in frustration.  Several months later I came back to the project and finished it off in about fifteen minutes.  The rest of the decals came from the various bits and pieces I’d accumulated during the course of the project, and the end result looked rather nice.

90.513, 7 Squadron, Pakistan Air Force, c. mid 1990s.

You might not be surprised to learn that there is not much information around about what the Mirage IIIOs looked like in Pakistani service.  From the pictures that are available it is clear that some went into service more or less as they had been in RAAF service, particularly the light grey ones.  A challenging project would have been of a weathered RAAF fuselage mated with bright shiny new South African wings but there was a very nice photo of 90.513 that appeared to be refurbished in Pakistani colours so I went in that direction.

The colours I used were a bit of a guess, based on a kind of visual average of the colours as they appeared in various internet photos.  The national decals came from an old Microscale decal sheet of Mirages of various nationalities but between the time that sheet was printed and the mid 1990s some of the details had been changed so I had to modify them as well.  The numbers are not quite the right font but they were the closest to the real thing I could find on my computer.  The only thing I was not able to find was the 7 Squadron badge that should appear on the tail.  The views I found in photos were not quite good enough to use and my search across the internet failed to turn up anything, as did a couple of enquiries I shot off to Pakistan.  Still, there is a blank space on the tail if I ever manage to find something suitable.  This is the last Mirage IIIO model I intend to make and it looks right at home among all the RAAF ones.

Some time later, 2021

A3-115, ARDU in the 1980s

The RAAF acquired a few Dassault Mirage IIIDs to serve as trainers for the pilots of its Mirage IIIO fleet.  It would have been challenging indeed to make this two seater from the old Frog kit so this model had to wait until I acquired the old short run High Planes Mirage IIID kit.  The decals for it were made by Hawkeye Models. This is the livery in which this Mirage can today be seen at the South Australian Aviation Museum.


When these models were made and these articles written the Frog 1/72 Mirage IIIO was the best kit of this aeroplane readily available.  Since then High Planes have published much improved kits of this aeroplane in both the Mirage IIID and Mirage IIIO versions.  I had plans to remake this set of Mirages using this much better and more accurate kit and have acquired the decals and kits to do so.  However, just when I’ve been thinking seriously about this project news comes that the Russian company Modelsvit is about to release their kit of the Mirage IIIO.  It promises to be even better than the High Planes kit so I might wait a while to see what eventuates.  I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting

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