On March 9, 1979, one year after the delivery of the Mirage 2000, the one-seat Mirage 4000 powered with two Snecma M 53 engines flew for the first time at Istres with Jean-Marie Saget at the controls. It confirmed predictions by reaching 50,000 feet at Mach 2 in 3 min 50 secs.
The decision to launch work on the production of a twin-engine aircraft concurrently with the single-engine Mirage 2000 was taken by the authorities in September 1976. Since the Mirage 4000 is a technological upgrade of the Mirage 2000 (except the front part of the aircraft which is equipped with a fixed canard ancillary wing, dismountable and adjustable in flight) – the design and construction of the two new aircraft were carried out simultaneously.
French aeronautical manufacturers self-financed the development of the Mirage 4000 in particular Avions Marcel Dassault-Breguet Aviation which was responsible for the airframe and supervised the assembly phase. Jet engines were borrowed from the government under the June 21, 1978 agreement with the Minister of Defense : the Snecma M 53 engines were taken from the stock of the Mirage 2000 program.
Composite materials used in the Mirage 4000 enabled a considerable weight reduction and excellent resistance to fatigue. The Mirage 4000 was the world’s first aircraft to have a fin made from a carbon-coated composite containing petrol.
The two Snecma M 53 engines with 10-ton thrust ratings put the Mirage’s weight-to-thrust ratio above one. Its design performance, moreover, outclassed every other aircraft in its category.
It has a fuel tank capacity three times greater than that of the Mirage 2000 and can also be refueled in flight.
On March 9, 1979, one year after the delivery of the Mirage 2000, the one-seat Mirage 4000 powered with two Snecma M 53 engines flew for the first time at Istres with Jean-Marie Saget at the controls. Right from its sixth flight, the Mirage 4000 achieved Mach 2, an exceptional performance. It confirmed predictions by reaching 50,000 feet at Mach 2 in 3 min 50 secs.
The king of Saudi Arabia and the Shah of Iran were interested in the Mirage 4000 program even before its first flight. Although serious talks went on, no agreement on the sale was reached.
No order was placed for the five planned production models and commercialization abroad became very uncertain.
In December 1977, the French Air Force asked the Defense Ministry’s Aeronautical Construction Department to look into a tactical combat aircraft to replace the Jaguar. Dassault-Breguet thus began work to design the ACX/Rafale.