GAF MIRAGE IIIO(FA) A3-16

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QAM thanks the following members for funding the acquisition of this aircraft.
David Bussey, Chuck Sava, Ron Cuskelly, Helen Sava, Maureen Cuskelly, Nick Sayer, Dave Dunlop, Mal Sayers, Cameron Elmes, Brian Scotney, Ron Entsch, Andrew Warwick, Peter Graves, Geoffrey Webber, Peter Graves, Geoffrey Webber, Alex Milne, Howard Webber, Robert Phillips, Albert Williams … Plus several anonymous donors …

Built at the Government Aircraft Factory (GAF) at Fishermen's Bend, Vic as a Mirage IIIO(F) to Order No. PO30032. (Source: 1)

The fuselage was built by GAF and the wings, fin, rudder, tail cone, engine and various panels were built by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC), also at Fishermen's Bend. The aircraft were assembled and test flown by GAF at Avalon. The standard RAAF prices for the aircraft were as follows: (Source: 2)
Aircraft: $1,665,000, Engine: $216,300, Afterburner: $116,300, Average cost per aircraft at end of production: $2,427,000

"Gradually the French content was reduced and by aircraft A3-16 the first Australian-built primary parts were incorporated." (Source: 4)

A3-16 was allotted to 81 Wing ex GAF Avalon as Unit Equipment. (Source: 1)

A3-16 was handed over to the RAAF. Atar engine s/n 13021 fitted. (Source: 1)

A3-16 was delivered from Avalon to Williamtown by Flt Lt A.M. Parer. The aircraft was the 6th Mirage delivered to 75 Sqn. (Source: 9) The ORB does not specify the exact date in this period (Friday-Monday).

A3-16 was one of four Mirages ferried from Williamtown to Amberley for Air Force Week displays. (Source: 9)

During the display at Amberley, A3-16 was overstressed by more than 8G on two occasions. (WGCDR Thomas was not flying his personal aircraft at the time). (Source: 9)

Photographed at Amberley carrying the name The Road Runner as the personal aircraft of Wing Commander Cedric Thomas, CO of No 75 Squadron based at Williamtown, NSW. The name, along with a roadrunner cartoon, was painted on both sides of the nose. The aircraft also carried a Wing Commander's pennant. The 75 Sqn emblem of two magpies and black and white checks (the so-called "Wedding Cake") was carrried on both sides of the fin. (Source: 7)

Three Mirages returned to Williamtown but A3-16 remained at Amberley "for mensuration check". (Source: 9)

A3-16 returned to Williamtown. (Source: 9)

A3-16 participated in Operation Pacific Concord One at RAAF Williamtown.

Deployed to Darwin. By this time the Roadrunner nose art and WGCDR pennant had been removed.

Held at 81 Wing. (Source: 1)

"The painting of aircraft fins in Squadron colours continues." (Source: 9) This would refer to the application of the so-called "dart" style tail markings.

No 76 Squadron officially became a Mirage squadron having operated Sabres until 15JUL66. (Source: 10)

Available records do not show exactly when A3-16 was allotted to 76 Sqn but this was evidently in the period JUL-AUG66.

A3-16 was one of six Mirages that positioned from Williamtown to RAAF Edinburgh, SA for an air show. (Source: 10)

Air show practice at RAAF Edinburgh. (Source: 10)

Air show at RAAF Edinburgh where A3-16 was photographed in 76 Sqn markings. (Source: 10)

"Messrs Henning and Tanner from the Australian News and Information Bureau visited the squadron to gather information and photographs for a Japanese magazine article with distribution through the Far East. Three Mirages in formation provided Mr Henning with air-to-air photographs for his project." (Source: 10)
A3-16 participated in this formation and one of the photos can be viewed here.

Allotted to GAF Avalon ex 81 Wing for incorporation of retrospective modifications. (Source: 1)

A3-16 was ferried from Williamtown to Avalon by Flg Off J.L. Ellis for modifications. (Source: 10)

Received at GAF Avalon during the week ending 14OCT66. (Source: 1)

Despatched from GAF Avalon during the week ending 09DEC66. (Source: 1)
The status card suggests that the aircraft was despatched to 75 Sqn but the following entry confirms that it was received at 76 Sqn.

Returned from Avalon to 76 Sqn at Williamtown. (Source: 10)

Despatched from 76 Sqn to GAF Avalon for incorporation of retrospective modifications and special servicing. (Source: 1)

"One aircraft was ferried to Avalon for retro-modification." (Source: 10)
The above entry confirms that this was A3-16.

"An aircraft was ferried to Avalon for painting. Note:- It is the intention to have all the squadron aircraft painted as treatment against corrosion." (Source: 10)
The aircraft was not identified.

Despatched from GAF Avalon to Unit Equipment 76 Sqn. (Source: 1)

Despatched from 76 Sqn to GAF Avalon for survey and report. (Source: 1)

Despatched from GAF Avalon to 76 Sqn. (Source: 1)

Allotted to GAF Avalon for conversion to Attack role as Mirage IIIO(FA). (Source: 1)

Received at GAF Avalon. (Source: 1)

Allotted to 76 Sqn ex GAF Avalon. (Source: 1)

Received at GAF Avalon for Mod 7 and D service. (Source: 1)

Allotted to the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) Laverton ex GAF Avalon. (Source: 1)

A3-16 was fitted with a modified radome which featured a flight path accelerometer probe in addition to the normal pitot probe. The aircraft was used mainly as a photo chase aircraft in which role it carried a modified supersonic tank containing a high speed Photo-Sonics Inc 16mm film camera. This tank was carried under the right wing and its nose cone was painted orange. It was ARDU practice to paint any non-standard equipment orange and to use orange cable looms for the associated wiring. (Source: 12)
A3-16 was used during the testing of the Karinga cluster bomb which was developed in Australia by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO).

A3-16 and A3-111 departed Avalon for Woomera via RAAF Edinburgh. ARDU Detachment A was then engaged in Karinga trials at Woomera. A3-16 suffered an hydraulic failure and made an emergency landing at Edinburgh. A3-111 continued to Woomera. (Source: 11)

ARDU Macchi A7-072 departed Laverton for Avalon, Edinburgh and Woomera in support of the unserviceable A3-16. Macchi A7-072 returned to Laverton the same day. (Source: 11)

ARDU Canberra A84-229 flew sorties from Woomera to Edinburgh in support of the unserviceable A3-16. (Source: 11)

ARDU Dakota A65-124 departed Laverton for Avalon, Edinburgh and Woomera with a crew to repair A3-16 at Edinburgh. The Dakota returned to Laverton on 24MAR74. (Source: 11)

A3-16 arrived in Woomera from Edinburgh. (Source: 11)

A3-16 flown by Flt Lt T.L. Farquharson (accompanied by A3-111 flown by Flt Lt N.J. Ford) returned to Avalon from Woomera when ARDU Detachment A withdrew due to a delay in the testing of the experimental stores. (Source: 11)

A3-16 flown by Flt Lt T.L. Farquharson (accompanied by A3-111 flown by Flt Lt N.J. Ford and Flt Lt D.P. Robson) flew from Avalon to Woomera to resume Karinga trials. (Source: 11)

ARDU Detachment A personnel returned to Laverton on Dakotas A65-65 and A65-124 when bad weather at Woomera hampered bomb recovery operations. (Source: 11)

ARDU Detachment A personnel returned to Woomera on Dakota A65-65. (Source: 11)

A3-16 flown by Flt Lt T.L. Farquharson (accompanied by A3-111 flown by Sqn Ldr K.J. Doyle and Flt Lt R.B. Crockart) returned to Avalon from Woomera. (Source: 11)

ARDU Detachment A ceased operations at Woomera and all personnel and equipment returned to Avalon by Hercules. (Source: 11)

"Mirage aircraft A3-16 crewed by Flt Lt N.J. Ford made a wheels-up landing at Tullamarine Airport while carrying out a practice diversion. The aircraft suffered moderate major damage. Flt Lt Ford was not injured." (Source: 11)
Note: In this verbatim quote from the ARDU Unit History Sheets, the typed "moderate" is hand-amended to "major".

Damaged in a wheels up landing on Runway 34 at Tullamarine, Vic at 1055 hours. A small fire broke out in the area of the rocket bay fuel tank but it was quickly extinguished by airport fire services. The aircraft was moved from the runway by crane late in the afternoon. (Source: 2, 3 & 8)
Pilot's Account of the Wheels-up Landing
Newspaper Report

A Court of Inquiry was convened to investigate the accident. Wg Cdr D. Johnston, Commanding Officer, 77 Squadron was appointed President of the Court. (Source: 11)

The aircraft was removed from Tullamarine by road. (Source: 8)

ARDU Dakota A65-78 "emerged from the hangar after a D service sporting the new ARDU tail flash, the first of the unit's aircraft to carry the flash." (Source: 11)

Allotted to GAF Avalon for repair. (Source: 1)

Received at GAF Avalon. (Source: 1)

ARDU Mirage strength reduces from 4 to 3. (Source: 11)

Awaiting decision on repair or disposal. (Source: 1)

Allotted to Laverton. (Source: 1)

Card is illegible but it appears to state that the aircraft is to be stored at Laverton pending a decision on repair or disposal. (Source: 1)

Again the card is illegible but it appears to show an allottment to CAC. (Source: 1)

Allotted to GAF. (Source: 1)

Aircraft to remain on charge to GAF pending repair/disposal by DEFAIR. Loan is now extended until June 83. (Source: 1)

Aircraft approved for disposal. (Source: 1)

Disposal action taken. (Source: 6)

The fuselage was purchased by Jack McDonald. During the time that the aircraft was in his ownership, it was used as a reference by TAA Captain Grahame Mackelmann in his study of the crash of Mirage A3-40 on 02MAY86 which claimed the life of his son, Pilot Officer Craig Mackelmann. (Source: 13)

Noted in a yard at Lacy Street, Braybrook, Vic.


Acquired by Ashley Briggs of Hallam, Vic. "In the late eighties I recovered the fuselage of A3-16 out of a yard in Melbourne. Wings came via the Aeronautical Research Laboratories (ARL) and other parts were sourced from numerous other places. In the end a basis for a restoration project was formed. This aircraft was then restored by Bob Jarrett at his museum in SA." (Source: 5)

Acquired by Bob Jarrett. (Source: 6)

The stripped fuselage of A3-16 was sighted along with other Mirage parts at Pearce Dunn's Warbirds Aviation Museum at Mildura.

Received at Classic Fighter Jets Museum, Parafield, SA. Subsequently restored and placed on display. (Source: 6)

QAM paid a deposit on the aircraft having signed a bill of sale to purchase the aircraft from Classic Jets Fighter Museum.

Ownership of A3-16 passed to QAM.

The aircraft departed Parafield for Caloundra on two semi-trailers.

The first truck carrying wings and other smaller components arrived on site at Caloundra.

The second truck carrying the fuselage and fin arrived at Caloundra - on the 42nd anniversary of its final landing. Both trucks were unloaded and all components were moved into Hangar 2.

Both wings were fitted.

Why IIIO?

When Australia became interested in the Mirage III, the current production model was the Mirage IIIE and this aircraft was to form the basis of the Australian Mirage. Obviously the Australian Mirage could not be designated IIIA as that was already taken, but why did Dassault jump ahead to O? The usual explanation is that O = Ostralia but this is not often documented.
Author, Jack Gee, in his book “Mirage – Warplane for the World” (Macdonald, 1971), attributes the O designation directly to:
Waquet who invented this designation in a characteristic moment of humour.
Bernard Waquet was Dassault’s Deputy Export Manager. As a Commander in the Aeronavale, he flew Helldivers and Hellcats in the Indochina War.
The noted British aviation writer, Bill Gunston, mentions it in his book “Early Supersonic Fighters of the West” (Ian Allan, 1976):
Knowing the sense of humour of Bernard Wacquet (sic), Dassault’s renowned Mirage salesman, I do not doubt that it was he who suggested the designation Mirage IIIO, the O standing for Orstralia.
Another variation on the theme is attributed to Monsieur Corantan who was the Dassault Tech Rep at Williamtown in 1970. He stated that the company was going to identify the Australian aircraft as Mirage IIIE-AU but because of the French pronunciation of words ending in EAU, the designation was contracted to Mirage IIIO.
Source: Wally Nelowkin, RAAF Flying Officer, Engineer Aeronautical (ENG AERO), OIC Mirage Servicing, 481 Squadron, Williamtown (from Sep 1969 to Jan 1971).

Sources

1

Aircraft Status Card via ADF Serials

2

"The RAAF Mirage Story" by WGCDR M.R. Susans. Published by the RAAF Museum 1990.

3

The Sydney Morning Herald of Friday 25 October 1974.

5

Ashley Briggs

6

Bob Jarrett, Classic Fighter Jets Museum

7

"Mirage IIIO Colours & Markings" by Paul Mason and Darren Mottram. Mushroom Model Publications 2005.

8

Gordon Reid

9

NAA: A9186. RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] Number 75 Squadron Dec 61 - Jun 78. Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of Australia) 2016.

10

NAA: A9186. RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] Number 76 Squadron Jan 60 - Aug 73. Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of Australia) 2015.
Note: From JUL69 to the last page in AUG73, little useful information is recorded and there is no mention of aircraft serial numbers. The Unit History Sheets in this period would appear to be a summary of the Flight Authorisation Book minus aircraft identities.

11

NAA: A9186. RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] ARDU Edinburugh Dec 60 - Jun 82. Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of Australia) 2015.

12

Dr Tony Butterfield, Senior Research Scientist at ARDU from 26JUL74.

13

Jack McDonald: interviewed by Ron Cuskelly at Caloundra on 01JUL17.

Compiled by Ron Cuskelly
To view this page as it was designed please click HERE

Compiled By Ron Cuskelly

Remarks

Added an image of the aircraft in 76 Sqn markings thanks to Nick Sayer.

Issue: 26

DATE: 25 AUG 17

Added a reference to the aircraft having been purchased from the Commonwealth by Jack McDonald (Source: 13).

Issue: 25

DATE: 03 JUL 17

Added an image of the aircraft streaming its braking chute. Thanks to Kym Manuel.

Issue: 24

DATE: 19 MAY 17

Added an image of the aircraft sitting on the runway at Tullamarine. Thanks to Bob Jarrett. Added two images of the aircraft on display thanks to Nick Sayer.

Issue: 23

DATE: 07 FEB 17

Added an image of the aircraft fully assembled and on display. Thanks to Angelo Calleja.

Issue: 22

DATE: 26 JAN 17

Added five images of the reassembly thanks to Nick Sayer and Angelo Calleja.

Issue: 21

DATE: 11 NOV 16

Added six images of the arrival at Caloundra (bottom row)

Issue: 20

DATE: 25 OCT 16

Added the departure date from Parafield.

Issue: 19

DATE: 20 OCT 16

Added an image of A3-16 being pushed. Thanks to Tony Butterfield. Added an image of the aircraft being dismantled. Thanks to Bob Jarrett.

Issue: 18

DATE: 31 AUG 16

Added an image of A3-16 carrying two Karinga cluster bombs.

Issue: 17

DATE: 25 AUG 16

Added two images of the aircraft arriving at the CJFM thanks to Bob Jarrett. Added an image of the aircraft in a scrap yard at Braybrook thanks to an anonymous contributor. Added a recent image thanks to Nick Sayer.

Issue: 16

DATE: 13 AUG 16

Added an image of a test nose fitted to an unknown Mirage. A3-16 was fitted with a similar nose at the time of its accident.

Issue: 15

DATE: 28 JUL 16

Added details from the ARDU Unit History Sheets (Source: 11)

Issue: 14

DATE: 28 JUN 16

The page on the wheels-up landing has been completely revised thanks to Nick Ford.

Issue: 13

DATE: 13 JUN 16

Completely revised after access to the Unit History Sheets for 75 & 76 Sqns. Although the status card suggests that the aircraft returned to 75 Sqn after having been allotted to 76 Sqn, the Unit History Sheets indicate that the aircraft remained with 76 Sqn until allotted to ARDU in NOV73.

Issue: 12

DATE: 03 JUN 16

Added date of transfer to QAM.

Issue: 11

DATE: 22 MAY 16

Added an image of Operation Pacific Concord One. Thanks to Fairfax Media. Added a newspaper cutting of the wheels up landing. Thanks to John Best.

Issue: 10

DATE: 15 MAY 16

Added three images of the unrestored fuselage thanks to Ashley Briggs. Added an image of the unrestored fuselage thanks to Greg Thom.

Issue: 09

DATE: 07 MAY 16

The linked Specifications page has now been completed. Thanks to Don Cameron.

Issue: 08

DATE: 02 MAY 16

Added an account of the last landing.

Issue: 07

DATE: 29 APR 16

Added a superb colour air-to-air image thanks to Roger Lowery. Added with thanks three colour images from OCT65 taken by Ian Whisker and supplied by Roger Lowery. Added three images of the aircraft at Mildura in FEB95 thanks to Cliff Robinson.

Issue: 06

DATE: 28 APR 16

Added artwork of the aircraft with the Road Runner nose art. Special thanks to Juanita Franzi of Aero Illustrations.

Issue: 05

DATE: 27 APR 16

Added two images thanks to George Canciani.

Issue: 04

DATE: 25 APR 16

Added two new images thanks to ADF-Serials and Nick Sayer. Added an image of the aircraft at Amberley on 19SEP65.

Issue: 03

DATE: 24 APR 16

History revised after access to status card. Added a photo of the aircraft as “The Road Runner”.

Issue: 02

DATE: 21 APR 16

Original issue. Special thanks to John Hopton for the images.

Issue: 01

DATE: 20 APR 16

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