The M53 connection: France, South Africa, Israel, and... China

Archibald

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All in the thread title.

1971: South Africa "Atlas" company takes a F1 licence, with a twist: they also take a M53 licence. The Armée de l'Air jumps on this and decides to change part of its ongoing F1 order (246 airframes, 160 of which are interceptors F1-Atar - into 40 to 120 F1-M53. It will be a low-end to the coming ACF.

Autumn 1973: Belgium Leburton government, noting this, moves forward and takes 40 aircraft. Greece follows, also with M53.
The Netherlands goes alone, then drags Denmark and Norway into a cut-down F-16 deal of the century (348 - 160 Belgium birds, must be 188 airframes)

1977: South Africa gets embargoed because of the Apartheid, which doesn't bothers Dassault nor the French in general, who don't want a communist Africa in their former backyard: "Françafrique" must live.

Meanwhile, in Israel... they follow the case attentively. While the Nammer will go nowhere, replaced by the (doomed) Lavi, all isn't lost there. Paper studies of "M53-Neshers", "M53-Kfirs", and "M53-Nammer" and "M53 Arie" are done: just in case; although by 1976 IDF/AF future belongs to F-15s and F-16s - with the Lavi coming on their heels in the early 80's.

In the early 80's South Africa and Israel go closer and closer - and Israel (deep into early Lavi studies) to their delight realizes they have a M53 licence.
This proves rather useful down the line...
- first, to the embargoed South Africans, who are sold M53-Kfirs in a huge deal in 1988
- secondly, to the Lavi itself: screw the PW1120, the M53 may be used as backup if Uncle Sam disasproves the Lavi (even if it pales a little, performance-wise: both are leaky turbojets)
- later on, to China...

Meanwhile, in China... the country is growing desperate for new, modern turbofans.

With many difficulties plaguing the Spey project, the overall similar M53 is started in parallel as the WS7 - via Israel, via South Africa.
The M53 ends part of the mysterious Lavi - J10 connection...
 
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Archibald

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Heck I have long thought about a "universal Spey" timeline (Viggen-Medway, Romania, AMX, France, China, A-7E TF41 Tomcat) but the" French M53 connection" ain't annoying either.
 

Archibald

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...and the final touch of the story obviously is: the Atlas Carver gets a M53, rather than Spey or Atar 9K50.

The F1M53 meanwhile is slowly but surely pulling out a Rafale: getting massive orders to replace the bulk of the French fleet of Mirage IIIC/E/R/V.

Early 1973 in a major twist the Aéronavale reveals it will replace both Etendard IV and Crusaders with a naval F1M53.
They asked Dassault for a massive upgrade of the Etendard IV; Dassault answer was a naval F1-M53 could also replace the Crusaders down the road. As a side effect SNECMA is getting their head out of the... sand. And the M53-P2 happens earlier than the 80's.
Basic M53-2: 8200 kg thrust. M53-5: 8500 kg. M53-P2: 9700 kg, a massive gain, all too welcome when facing the F-16. Or when catapulting from a Clemenceau class carrier. Dassault and the Aéronavale, followed by the AdA, get SNECMA moving.
So does South Africa, which needs more thrust according to their hot and dry climate. And then Iraq start saying the same thing.
Later in 1973 the Belgian order get things rolling even faster.

With the F1-M53 secured, it becomes a low-end to the ACF; and as such, the 2000 / 4000 mostly similar duo has no reason to exists. Unfortunately, the ACF is still doomed as too expensive in a post-1973-oil-shick economically crippled France.

Dassault ends putting (OTL Mirage 2000) "analog FBW" on improved Mirage F1s; and build a lot of them (let's say, 1000) before being crushed by the F-16 on export markets. The M53 higher thrust is very welcome for the Iraqis and their EQ series.

By 1976 with the ACF dead and the 2000/4000 paper-bound, Dassault is worried for its future. At least the prototype ACF (unlike OTL) is finished and flown in 1976, with stupendous performances matching a F-15. Because it is so similar to the Mirage F1, and three years earlier than OTL Mirage 4000, Saddam is growing interested in it as a "Tomcat killer".
Meanwhile Saudi Arabia is eyeing that aircraft, too, as an alternative to the F-15 ("Peace Sun") and Tornado ADV.

By 1974-77 the need for a Mirage IVA successor carrying the ASMP is still felt, with some differences compared to OTL.
Unlike OTL Mirage 2000N, a F1-M53 two-seater can't carry a RIO and an ASMP anywhere. No delta wing = not enough fuel, not enough range.
Arguing about Iraqi and Saudi possible funding; and also of massive economies of scale obtained through the "F1-M53 standardization"
-Dassault argues for a small serie (60 ?) of 2-seat ACF for nuclear strike: with costs drastically kept down via F1-M53 avionics and subsystems. With Iraqi funding secured in 1977 (rather than OTL 1981, too late, for the 4000) the French government accepts.
 
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Lascaris

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How about getting M53 on Mirage F1 from the start? I mean it did not enter service with AdA till 1973. M53 start life as super-Atar in 1967 and was in testing from 1970. So why not suggest the Atar Mirage F1 as an interim like the F404 powered Rafale A with the M53 Mirage F1 supposed to be the definite production aircraft.

Either way Carver ends up flying and is the closest thing to Mirage 2000 you see TTL...
 

Archibald

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Not possible unfortunately as SNECMA lost too much time. M53 flew only in July 1973 on a Caravelle test aircraft.
The Mirage F1M53 flew only on December 22, 1974.
Why so late ?
Main issues
- F1 got 9K50 from 1966, so "no hurry for M53".
- SNECMA had to ditch TF306E in 1969 and move to M53, but NOT for F1 at the time: but Mirage G8, the french Tornado.
Note the G8 flew in May 1971... with 9K50s (facepalm)

The bottom line: whatif the M53 was accelerated for the first G8 (May 1971) or the second one (July 1972) ?
And then the F1 snatched it some years earlier than OTL (March 1973) ?

There: enter the French Aeronavale. The Super Etendard decision was done in January 1973.
Yet, while struggling with the doomed Jaguar M since 1970, the Aeronavale was dreaming of a naval F1. The 9K50 could not do the job as navalization adds 1000 to 2000 pounds of structure reinforcements.
So guess what ?
It was the Aeronavale who married the F1 and M53 for the first time ! As early as 1970, THREE YEARS before the AdA and... SNECMA, in 1973.
Unfortunately the Jaguar M was standing in the way until 1972.
But Dassault did flew one of the F1 Atar prototypes in "approaches " on the Foch carrier in December 1971. NOT landings or even touch-and-go: just simulated approaches. They did the same with the Rafale demonstrator in the late 80's, before the Rafale M01 was available in 1993.

So the key is to get the F1M53 rolling earlier than OTL [March-1973 decision point / December 1974 first flight ]
 
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Archibald

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Le premier des 20 prototypes débuta ses essais en février 1970 et le second en août de la même année. Les tests de vitesse de rotation maximum et de poussée maximum à sec (50,96 kN) furent achevés en octobre.

Ceux de poussée maximum avec postcombustion (83,43 kN) furent terminés en septembre 1971.

Le premier vol d'essai eut lieu en juillet 1973, avec un M53 accroché à l'arrière d'une Caravelle3, à la place d'un Avon. Il fut suivi en décembre 1974 par les essais à haute vitesse, à l'aide d'un Mirage F1 modifié.

Frack. Seems the M53 bench testing was completed in the years 1970 and 1971.

Soooo the M53 was ready to fly by early 1972.

And then three years were lost, since the F1M53 flew late 1974 (= early 1975) 1972, 1973, 1974...
this allowed
- Belgium gvt Leburton to fall in April 1974, replaced by Leo Tindemans
- Tindemans sided with The Netherlands, Norway and Denmark in what become the Deal of the Century
- the F-16 to fly in January 1974 and then rob the Deal of the Century in June 1975.

Now that's fascinating, as January 1973 is turning point, for two reasons

- Belgium elects Leburton as PM, his government will last merely 18 months to April 1974. Yet in the fall of 1973 he was ready to order F1M53

- Defense Minister Michel Debré decides in favor of the Super Etendard for the Aéronavale also in January 1973.

And the F1M53 program (OTL) starts in March 1973.
Which means
- Aéronavale is already lost
- Belgium is lost, but Leburton government lasted only 18 months... and 2 months have already been lost.

So, with the M53 ready early 1972, the deal is to start the F1M53 a year earlier, March 1972 - or perhaps even earlier, perhaps in 1971.

This way, it can screw the Super Etendard and seduce Belgium new government of Leburton...

---------

The next domino to fly will be the Armée de l'Air. They had an order for 160 Mirage F1C with Atar. Yet OTL after Belgium and Aéronavale were lost they were ready to convert 40 to 120 F1C to the M53.
The first F1C (with Atar) entered service at Reims in April 1973; the 160 F1C and 246 total (with -B and -CR variants) took until the 80's to be delivered.

Another turning point is July 1972. This is the moment when the VG Mirage G8 was abandonned and replaced by the fixed-wing, M53-powered ACF. Of course both were unaffordable, just like the 4000 that followed them: but the Armée de l'Air did not cared, they wanted a twin-jet even if they had to wait 30 more years for the Rafale, in 2003... (facepalm).
 
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Archibald

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So at the end of the day, with the M53 ready to fly early 1972, the F1M53 could have been started 24 months to 18 months before March 1973: right in the year 1971.
The reason could be related to the G8 or ACF needing it (May 1971 to July 1972)
Once the F1M53 starts earlier than OTL, the deal is to score a "bull's eye" by getting
- Aéronavale
- Belgium
- Armée de l'Air
together, let's say in July 1973.
-The Aéronavale would take 100 but would only get 71
-The AdA would convert 40 to 120 F1C out of 160
-Belgium OTL bought 160 F-16s

Sooo...
OPTIMISTIC CASE: 100+120+160 = 380 Mirage F1 M53
REALISTIC CASE: 71+40+160 = 271 airframes.

Unbelievable. I've just turned the Deal of the Century on its head. :eek:

380 F1M53s for Belgium and France... instead of 348 F-16 for Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway.
 

Archibald

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Look at the two attached files. Dear God: they represent the debate "Mirage F1M53" versus "a shitload of Mirage G derivatives with TF306 or M53" as it happened between 1968 and 1973 - when the F1M53 was a go, at least.

In a few words: the F1M53 was in the making as early as 1968; but for 5 years it was essentially stalled by a crapload of Mirage G derivatives. Fasten your seat belt: G1, G1M, G2, G3, G3M (the "M" means "Marine": Navy).

Plus the G4 and G8.

France tried to cover the entire range of VG types - from MiG-23 and Tornado and Tomcat to F-111 - with a load of Mirage G derivatives. With M53 or TF306 engines. Or two engines.

This.is.a.complete.procurement.mess. My brain is still bleeding in pain.
 

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Archibald

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I've reached a point where I feel that the best POD would be French minister of defense Pierre Messmer telling De Gaulle about the whole mess perhaps in February 1969. De Gaulle goes into one of his legendary tantrums and bangs his fit on the table.

Saying exactly this.

"So
- the Armée de l'air wants a M53 jet, perhaps derived from the F1
- the Aéronavale also wants a M53 jet, but leans toward a Mirage G
- and SNECMA only knows, they need a supersonic testbed for the M53

All right then.

1-Let's put a M53 into the fifth Mirage F1 prototype; and let's do the same for the lone Mirage G flying since November 1967.

2- This way,
- SNECMA will have TWO M53 supersonic test aircraft
- the AdA will know, what a F1M53 can do
- the Aéronavale will know, what a M53 Mirage G looks like

3 - And at some point in 1970-71 we will decide which aircraft to put into production... according to the two services budget resources. The Aéronavale thinks big but has no money; the Armée de l'Air is richer, but its budget is eaten by freakkin' Jaguar. "

(Scoop: the F1M53 will win hands down, as much as I love the Mirage G, it has zero chances)
 

Archibald

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As for the "heavy twin jet", consider the following list
(1966-1976: exactly 10 years)
- AFVG:1965-1967-----------NO (unaffordable)
- RAGEL: 1968---------------NO (unaffordable)
- Mirage G4:1968-70--------NO (unaffordable)
- Mirage G8: 1970-74-------NO (unaffordable)
- ACF: 1972-1975------------NO (unaffordable)
- Mirage 4000: 1975-1988---NO (unaffordable)

Can you believe that ? Six times in 10 years did the AdA tried to procure a twin-jet heavy combat aircraft; six times was the door slammed in their faces.

But make no mistake, they tried a seventh time from 1977 and finally got the Rafale... in 2003.

Unbelievable !

Now, whatif somebody had told the Armée de l'Air in 1968
"It's either upgraded MIRAGE IV or TORNADO or NOTHING."

Note that the 62nd Mirage IV rolled out of Dassault in October 1968, and that the MRCA agreement was signed on March 23, 1969.

So the time was ripe to tell the Armée de l'Air: "it's TORNADO or MIRAGE IV or NOTHING."
 
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