Dassault Mirage IV R
Originally designed as a high speed strategic bomber to deliver the French nuclear bomb as part of the Force de Frappe, 62 Mirage IV aircraft were built and equipped 3 Escadres; 91 at Mont de Marsan, 93 at Istres and 94 at Avord from the early 1960ís. Essentially a scaled up Mirage III fighter, the Mirage IV carries a crew of 2 in tandem cockpits. With external tanks the aircraft's still air range is 2484 miles. To enable the aircraft to operate safely from dispersed airfields with fairly short runways, twelve booster rockets could provide additional thrust on take-off. Rather disturbingly for the crews, had they ever been tasked to attack Russia the aircraft were only capable of a 'one-way' mission. That said, as there wouldn't have been much for the crews to return home to, I suppose it was decided that, if the crunch ever came, it really wouldn't matter much anyway.
Twelve aircraft were later converted into dedicated reconnaissance aircraft and redesignated to IV R. Initially the aircraft carried the CT 52 strategic reconnaissance pod which contained vertical, oblique and forward cameras - typically three OMERA 36 cameras for high altitude work, three OMERA 35 cameras for low level work and a Wildt mapping camera. As an alternative, a SAT Super Cyclone infra-red linescan unit can replace the OMERA 36 cameras. The five aircraft that remain in service are still highly capable and in recent years have flown operational sorties over Bosina, Afganistan and Iraqi. It will be a sad day when the remaining examples of this graceful and unique aircraft finally retire.