Text : Serge Van Heertum Pictures : Serge Van Heertum and SBAP archives (others as mentionned)
Entered into service in 1970, the 15 year old Belgian Air Force Mirage was scheduled to be replaced. So in 1985 the defence ministry started a replacement study. At that time 4 squadrons were operational on the Dassault « delta » aircraft, the 1st (Thristel), 2nd (Comet), 8th (Blue Cocotte) and 42nd (Mephisto).
Even with a restricted defence budget, Belgium bought a supplementary batch of 44 F-16 foreseen to equip the 1st and the 2nd squadron.
SABCA (société Anonyme Belge de Construction Aéronautique), always looking for new military market proposed a modernisation program for the “old” Mirage V wich was named MirSIP (Mirage System Improvement Program).
|MirSIP pilot patch (coll SBAP)||SAGEM logo for the cockpit modernisation program (coll SBAP)|
This program included :
Wing ribs redesigned and reworked.
giving substantial improvement in instantaneous turn rate performance for air to
air offensive and defensive capabilities.
More stability in flight, reducing around 40% of structural fatigue.
Reducing the take-off and landing distances. Approach speed around 10 knots lower (Always high and critical for a Delta plane)
Electrical generating and distribution system redesigned. New wiring.
Communication equipement UHF, VHF, IFF, TACAN alligned on the F-16.
HSI and ADI also identical to the fighting falcon.
Oxygen : New liquid oxygen system similar to the F-16 for more interoperability and safety.
Fuel System : Pressure refuelling replacing the previous gravity system. This one managed by the CDU will ensure a refuelling in 5 minutes instead of the 22 minutes needed with the gravity system.
Mission upgrades (WDNRS):
CDU (Cockpit Display unit) from Marconi-Canada with full back up function of the Nav / Attack computer.
(head up display) GEC-Marconi wide-FOV with front up control panel. equipped
with a colour VINTEN camera.
HDD (head down display) from GEC-Ferranti including stored tactical data, navigation data and real time reconnaissance video data presentation.
Avionics : Sagem MAESTRO (Modular Avionics Enhancement System Targeted for Retrofit Operations)
(Inertial Navigation System) platform from SINGER-KEARFOTT (similar as the one
onboard the F-16)
Nav/Attack system Sagem-UNA 92.
Nav/Attack UTR 90 computer
Radar altimeter (Honeywell) forTercor (terrain correlation) functions.
HOTAS cockpit based on the F-16 concept including the same symbols, redesigned throttle grip and Mirage 2000 stick.
FLIR (Forward Infra Red Looking) Sagem Iris.
: Thomson-TRT Defense TMV 630 laser range finder.
ECR Active/passive Electronical Counter Measures (RWR and chaff/flare dispensers).
New Martin-Backer Mk10 zero/zero ejection seat.
Anti collision lights RECCE compatible similar to the F-16 system
New fire detection system like the one of the F-16.
Electronic components of the auto-pilot and servo's flight controls replaced by solid state miniaturized racks.
Redundancy of the critical functions.
The contract signed between Sabca and the Belgian authorities included the modifications for the 63 remaining Mirage foreseen to be flown by the 8 squadron and 42 recce squadron.
|General view of the different modifications|
|New wide angle head up display with up front control panel||New cockpit display unit (CDU)||New head down display for mission, navigation and tactical gestion||Data transfert equipement compatible with F-16 MSS / CAMPAL|
|New HOTAS dashboard design (Courtesy SABCA)|
|BA60 cockpit||Matin Backer Mk 10 zero / zero|
|Pressure refueling system managed by the CDU|
|Laser designator||New liquid oxygen system|
But in 1992 the geopolitical situation changed in Europe and therefore the Belgian government decided to reduce the military fleet thus the replacement of the Mirage was aborted. Sadly, the initial contract included a withdrawal agreement that would bring high costs to Belgium.
The program continued and the next goal was to find a buyer for the MirSIP.
The first flight of the MirSIP prototype, the BA60, was held in March 1993 and was presented at Paris Airshow.
|The BA60 full metal (courtesy H Sermont Belgian Wings)||The same in flight during the first test flights (courtesy Les ailes militaires belges)|
|First pictures with his new grey livery designed for Paris Airshow (coll SBAP)|
|Paris - Le Bourget near Dassault Aviation area|
|Closed up on the canopy, new ejection seat and laser designator||Towed after a demo flight|
Some month’s later, in February 1994, the Belgian company SABCA, the Belgian and the Chilean government signed a purchase agreement for 20 MirSIP (15 BA & 5 BD) and also for a batch of 5 non modified aircraft (4 BR & 1 BD). This second batch was to keep a Recce capability and one aircraft for spare. The Chilean contract included some other modifications at aircraft. The suppression of the TACAN system and the addition of an ILS for example. The name chosen by the Chilean Air Force authorities was “Elkan” (“Secret” in Magunchungun Chilean indegeneous language) . Concretely the MirSIP aircraft was delivered to the Belgian authorities for acceptation and returned to SABCA for the “Elkan” modifications. The first plane was delivered to the Chilean government during a ceremony held at SABCA Gosselies on October 20th, 1994. The contract included also the formation of the Chilean pilots. For this reason the MirSIP detachment was based at Brustem air base and between November 1994 and February 1995 and two Belgian pilots gave flight training to the Chilean delegation. The first Chilean batch was transported via an Antonov An-124 in March 1995.
|The BA11 after MirSIP upgrade (coll SBAP)||BA62 presented at Brustem airshow in 1994|
|The Bego-Chilean agreement logo on the BA62||Cdt De Bruyn was one of the MirSIP program pilot|
|BD03 at take off (coll Jean Dries)||BD03 Belgian colours and the BD04 with Chilean markings (coll Jean Dries)|
|From MirSIP to ELKAN (coll Jean Dries)||BD01 during the Chilean training period (coll SBAP)|
|The n° 718 ( BD04) and 719 (BD14) in front of SABCA Gosselies instalations (courtesy SABCA)|
|Official roll out and delivery on October 20th, 1994 (coll Jean Dries)||ELKAN n°711 (BA56) in the background during the ceremony (coll Jean Dries)|
|Chilean and Belgian authorities on the tarmac and posing for the official picture (coll Jean Dries)|
This was the end of the magnificent delta aircraft in the Belgian skies !
|N°710 (BA52) on taxi at Antofagasta air base (courtesy Chris Lofting)||N°705 (BA37) touch down (courtesy Chris Lofting)|
|N°713 (BA59) in final (courtesy Chris Lofting)||N°714 (BA60) drag chute deployed (courtesy Chris Lofting)|
|N°714 (BA60) at holding point (courtesy Chris Lofting)||N°720 (BD15) run up (courtesy Chris Lofting)|
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