By Jamie Hunter
To illustrate its upgrade programme for the Moroccan Air Force, Sagem Défense Sécurité (Outside, C1) exhibited a heavily-guarded French AF Mirage F1CT in the static display at Paris.
In 2005 Morocco announced plans to upgrade its fleet of 27 Mirage F1CH/EH under the $420 million Astrac (Association Sagem-Thales pour la Rénovation d'Avions de Combat) programme, a joint venture between Sagem and Thales.
The deal is the first for the co-operative Astrac programme, under which the two companies jointly bid for upgrade work. This series of upgrades will return the Moroccan F1s to full-operating capability with new avionics, airframe modifications and engines upgraded by Snecma, Sagem’s partner in the Safran Group. The programme was chosen rather than buying surplus F-16s from the US, which had been under long-term consideration.
Work on the upgrade started in 2006 and includes a primary new sensor, the Thales RC400 multi-mode radar, which is a derivative of the RDY fitted in the Mirage 2000-5. The upgrade also involves installation of two new powerful onboard computers, a hybrid laser gyro/GPS navigation system with a MIL-STD-1553 databus for communications between these systems.
The Mirages will also receive capability to employ new weaponry in the shape of Matra MICA and Magic 2 air-to-air missiles, AM39 air-to-surface missile and the new Sagem AASM precision-guided bomb. It will also have laser-guided weapons capability and will employ the Thales Damocles targeting pod.
The new 'glass cockpit' features HOTAS controls, will be NVG compatible and will also feature a tactical datalink. The upgraded Mirages will also be fitted with a complete new-generation self-defence system, comprising a new radar warning receiver (RWR), jammer, and a decoy dispenser.