Origins and prototypes
At the end of 1967, in response to the Swiss Air Force’s call for a tactical support aircraft even more maneuverable than the Mirage III. Dassault and the Fabrique fédérale d’Avions at Emmen decided to build small retractable surfaces into the nose cone of the Mirage. These whiskers reduced the take off distance, increased the payload, allowed for steeper banking along valleys and lowered the approach speed (by 20 knots). After promising wind-tunnek trails, Mirage 5J n°2 –christened “Asterix” for that cartoon’s character famous mustache- with its whiskers in fixed position but adjustable by increments of 10°, made its first flight at Melun-Villaroche on September 27, 1968, piloted by Jean-Marie Saget.
Mirage III R n° 344 renamed Milan 01 was fitted with retractable whiskers. Flight tests began on May 24, 1969. Dassault then produced the final version using the airframe of Mirage III R n°589 and an Atar 9K50 70.6-kN engine. The aircraft was equipped with a weapons system based on the Jaguar’ (similar to that of the Mirage III E) with some new equipment elements.
Production and operational experience
The maiden flight of the Milan took place at Melun-Villaroche on May 29, 1970 with Guy Mitaux-Maurouard in the pilot seat. The aircraft was presented at the Swiss tactical support aircraft competition.
At Emmen on May 2, 1972, Milan S 01 jousted with the Corsair II. The match, however, was a draw; in the end, Switzerland decided to prolong the life of its Hunters and buy Northrop F5. The contest nonetheless brought home the advantage of having a weapons system based on the use of an inertial computer and head-up sights. Immediately on its return to France, the Milan was equipped with an inertial system and a cathode sight unit. It served to define the architecture of the modern weapons system which were to equip the export versions of the Mirage F 1, the F 1 CR and the Super-Etendard.