Mirage 5 BD09 at Night
On October 26th and December 21st, 2019 the Belgian Mirage 5 BD09 Restoration Group organized a special sunset and night photoshoot at the Limburg Regional Airport (former Brustem Air Base) in Belgium. This group of aviation enthusiasts and former Belgian Air Force personnel (all part of the Mirage Pilots Association) bought together with private investors the Mirage 5 BD09 in France in 2017 after which the fighter jet arrived at the Limburg Regional Airport by road in February 2018. Hangar 43 at the former Belgian military airbase became the new home base of the BD09 where the BD09 Restoration Group tries to restore this Mirage 5 as well as possible. The Mirage 5 BD09 entered services in the Belgian Air Force in 1971 and was flown into storage at Weelde in January 1994. During its operational lifetime this two-seat trainer fighter jet had a total of 3.846 flying hours and made 3.930 landings. Now, many years later a special sunset and night photo shoot was organized to display the beauty of this delta-shaped aircraft.
The Mirage 5 fighter jet was a supersonic attack aircraft designed in the 1960s by the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault after a request from the Israeli Air Force. This fighter jet was derived from Dassault’s popular Mirage III and was sold to Abu Dhabi, Belgium, Colombia, Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Pakistan, Peru, Venezuela, and Zaire. In order to replace the American Republic F-84F Thunderstreak fighter-bomber and the RF-84F Thunderflash reconnaissance aircraft, in 1968 the Belgian government ordered 106 Mirage 5’s which made Belgium the biggest buyer of this type of aircraft. Belgium decided to purchase three variants of the Mirage 5: 63 Mirage 5 BA’s, 16 Mirage 5 BD’s and 27 Mirage 5 BR’s. While the BA version was a single-seat ground-attack version, the BD version was a two-seat trainer and conversion version. The third version Belgium bought was used for aerial reconnaissance. This aircraft was capable of nuclear weapons delivery and maximum warload was 4,000 kg. All of these aircraft, except the first three, were to be license-built by SABCA in Belgium. While components for the Mirage 5 were produced by SABCA in Haren (Brussels) the assembly of the fighter jets took place at the SABCA facilities at Gosselies airfield (Charleroi). The powerful ATAR engines for the Belgian Mirage 5’s were produced by FN Moteurs at its facilities in Liège.
The first Belgian Mirage V performed its first flight on March 6th, 1970. During their operational lifetime these delta-shaped fighter jets were part of the 1st Squadron (Thristel), 2nd Squadron (Comet), 8th Squadron (Blue Cocotte) and 42nd Squadron (Mephisto) of the Belgian Air Force. By the end of the 1980s, the Belgian government agreed for the MIRage Safety Improvement Program (MIRSIP) that consisted of upgrading 20 Mirage 5’s. The upgrade eventually included a new state-of- the-art cockpit, a new ejection seat, and canards to improve takeoff performance and overall maneuverability. A new government in Belgium cancelled the MIRSIP program but due to a watertight contract, SABCA was allowed to carry out the MIRSIP update on these 20 Mirages. Chile took over the improved Mirages and five more non-modified aircraft. This delta-shaped aircraft was used by the Belgian Air Force for almost 20 years after which they were replaced by the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets. The Mirage 5 has left a long-lasting mark on various people involved in this program and even until today, former Mirage 5 pilots and technicians still talk passionately about their adventures and experiences with this beautiful aircraft.
The author would like to thank the Mirage 5 BD09 Restoration Group for these wonderful and well organized sunset and night photo shoots!
Text & photos: Kris Christiaens