THE FRENCH AIR FORCE is withdrawing its Dassault Mirage IV nuclear-bomber fleet from service in July - 32 years after the aircraft entered service. The air force will use Dassault Mirage 2000s in the nuclear role and, later, Dassault Rafales.

Altogether, 62 Mirage IV bombers have been in operational service with the air force. The most recent version is the Mirage IVP (for deep penetration), armed with a 3,000t ASMP (air-sol moyenne portee) nuclear missile.

There are 16 Mirage IVPs still in service, eight each at the Cazaux and Mont de Marsan air bases in southwest France. All 16 will be phased out of nuclear service by 31 July.

Five Mirage IVPs will be kept on for the photographic-reconnaissance and electronic-warfare role. By 2005, the air force hopes to use the Rafale combat aircraft as a nuclear bomber, possibly with a new nuclear cruise missile. The Mirage 2000N nuclear bomber continues in service carrying the ASMP. The Rafale is expected to go into service at the same time as France phases out the Plateau d'Albion-based nuclear-missile site.

Source: Flight International