Aviation Historian 18
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A.Delalande - Mirage au Congo
Mirage 5Ms M401, M402, M403 and M404 with their C-160 Transall support aircraft at Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on March 21, 1976, during their delivery flight from France to Zaire. Note the French roundels displayed prominently on the Mirages' ins.
Mirage 5Ms M401, M402, M403 and M404 with their C-160 Transall support aircraft at Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on March 21, 1976, during their delivery flight from France to Zaire. Note the French roundels displayed prominently on the Mirages' ins.
Minus droptanks, Mirage 5M serial M408 was photographed at Bordeaux-Merignac in June 1976 before its delivery to Zaire that November. The Mirage 5 was essentially a simplified version of the Mirage III fighter, making it an affordable but rugged state-of-the-art fighter for smaller air arms. The prototype first flew on May 19, 1967.
One of the FAZ two-seat Mirage 5DMs is prepared for a mission at Kamina, with the large military air base’s distinctive hangars in the background. The FAZ operated a total of 11 single-seaters and three two-seaters, three of the single-seaters being diverted to Venezuela.
Although bearing the Zairian flag on the fin and the FAZ serial M401 on the fuselage, the grey-green camouflage pattern marks this out as one of the three Armee de I’Air Mirage 5Fs of EC 3/13 sent to Zaire as part of Operation Salongo, the first delivery flight, in which French single-seaters were sent as interim replacements for the unready 5Ms.
A rare photograph of an FAZ Mirage in action on home soil. With drag 'chute streaming, a single-seater comes in to land at Kamina Air Base in southern Zaire during the Second Shaba War in the spring of 1978. The Mirage demanded a high degree of skill for landing, having a speed "over the fence" of some 185 m.p.h. (300km/h).
Three Zairian pilots, including Jean-Louis M’Pele M’Pele (furthest left), pose beside Mirage 5M serial M412 at N’Djamena during their detachment to Chad in 1983.
Three Mirage 5Ms on the ramp at Kamina awaiting their next missions during the Second Shaba War. The majority of Mirage missions undertaken during the conflict were flown by French pilots Georges Bouge and Jean-Pierre Fartek, who were in Zaire as instructors, although at least one Zairian pilot saw combat during the conflict.
Single-seat Mirage 5M serial M407 taxying in from - or out for - its acceptance flight at Bordeaux-Merignac in July 1976. The FAZ’s Mirage two-tone camouflage pattern was essentially the same as that of the Armee de I’Air’s examples, but with the French grey replaced by a yellow-green, better suited to Zaire’s equatorial environment.
In his distinctive green helmet, Major Luamba prepares for a mission in a Mirage 5M during a series of French-Zairian tactical exercises held in September 1979 under the name Porc-Epic. The Mirage 5Ms were officially designated M5Ms by Dassault, as seen here in the legend on the fuselage beneath the cockpit.
Two-seat Mirage 5DM serial M201 with long-range fuel tanks beneath its wings. Note the Zairian flag, incorporating a light-green field with a yellow circle in which a right hand holds a torch with a red flame, on the fin. By 1988, only one of the three two-seaters remained serviceable, and was ultimately sold back to Dassault to provide spares for Egypt’s Mirages.
Typical of the level of sophistication - or lack thereof - to be found in the ground and maintenance operations of the FAZ, one of the two Mirage 5Ms involved in the runway collision on their return from Togo in April 1977 is seen here supported not with a jack, but with a barrel and a pair of tyres. Fortunately both aircraft were lightly damaged and repaired.
Lieutenant Guillaume Bafuma Limpaka in the cockpit of an FAZ Mirage 5M during the First Shaba War. Lasting from March to May 1977, the conflict resulted in a nominal victory for Mobutu and the Zairian military, although hostilities broke out again in the Shaba region (as Katanga was renamed by Mobutu) the following year, lasting from May to June.
Looking somewhat disconsolate, Mirage 5M serial M402 is seen here supported on 200 lit barrels minus its nosecone, canopy and engine at N’Djamena following its take-off accident during the FAZ’s detachment to Chad during 1983-84. The three Mirages sent - M402, M404 and M412 - saw no active combat during their spell there.
Lieutenant Mukendi Kabanga of the Force Aerienne Zairoise (FAZ) prepares to climb aboard a Mirage IIIBE of EC 2 for another training sortie at Dijon in 1976. Kabanga went on to become a commercial pilot, flying for Air Zaire and later, its replacement, Lignes Aeriennes Congolaises (Congolese Airlines), with which he flew Boeing 737s.