On this day, in 1972, the Mirage G8 02 made its first flight at Istres, piloted by Jean-Marie Saget.
On September 15, 1967, Jean-Claude Brabant’s team was assigned the task of defining the initial specifications for a twin-engine swing-wing aircraft. One year later, an order was placed for two experimental two-seaters with twin Atar 9 K 50 engines, christened Mirage G4.
On October 11, 1968, the Air Force’s Materials Program Bureau issued a set of technical specifications:
“The aircraft must be capable of carrying either a nuclear weapon, or a large quantity of conventional weapons. The main launching mode for the nuclear weapon is to be low-altitude launching, at high subsonic speeds to begin with, and later at low supersonic speeds. At a later date, we envisage equipping the aircraft with a nuclear air-to-ground missile.”
After several developments in the program, the Air Force general staff wanted a twin-engine single-seater for interception missions, with a shorter range than the G4, since a smaller aircraft would be less expensive. These aircraft took the name G8, and were to be equipped with M 53 turbo-jets.
The two-seat Mirage G4 01 changed its name to G8 01. Its first flight, at Istres on May 8, 1971, was piloted by Jean-Marie Saget. On the 13th, during its 4th sortie, it reached Mach 2.03 with a 70º sweepback angle. It touched down at 118 knots, demonstrating the type of velocity differential that could be achieved with the swing-wing in conjunction with sophisticated high-lift devices, as compared with a delta wing.
The second prototype, G4 02, then under construction, was transformed into the single-seat Mirage G8 02 by taking out the rear seat. It was equipped with Snecma 9 K 50 turbo-jets and given a simplified weapons system – that of the F1 supplemented by the navigation system of the Milan. For its first anniversary – and its 74th sortie – on July 13, 1973, it achieved the highest speed ever for an aircraft in Western Europe: Mach 2.34 at 42,000 ft. In 1995, that record still stands.