Argentina said farewell to its remaining fleet of French built Mirage fighter bombers which have been operational since 1972 and played a crucial role during the South Atlantic conflict when they clashed with the British Task Force sent to recover the invaded and occupied Falkland Islands in 1982.
The ceremony took place last Sunday at the VI Air Brigade stationed in Tandil, Buenos Aires province, with the attendance of active and retired pilots, Malvinas war veterans, members of Air Force families, officials from the three services and security forces, and locals.
The event under the heading of 'Argentina farewells its Mirages, but Glory is forever' was an air and landing display from four different Mirage models from the Argentine Air Force. They were supported by a pass-by from other aircraft such as the IA-63 Pampa; IS-58 Pucará; Hercules C130; Fokker F-27; DHC-6 Twin Otter; Grob 120 and Embraer-312 Tucano plus helicopters Mi-171; Bell 212 and Hughes 500.
The Mirage III model was designed as a supersonic interceptor by the French Dassault in the mid fifties and was followed by the Mirage V, which became a fighter bomber. They helped Israel win an astounding victory during the Six days war in 1967, and based on this international performance, Argentina five years later incorporated the first units which started flying in 1973.
During the Falklands/Malvinas conflict the Mirages III and its pilots outstood for their combat capacity against the British Task Force. Likewise and equally lethal the Israeli version of the Mirage, the IAI Dagger, which also was involved in tens of bombing sorties during the 1982 conflict.
In 1988 the Argentine Air Force Mirages were stationed in Tandil, but with insufficient funds for spares and maintenance the combat readiness of the fleet deteriorated and decommissioning was round the corner. Since the nineties Argentina has been in talks to try and replace the aircraft lost during the 1982 conflict including the Mirages with improved avionics.
This event is not a farewell but a gathering of all the men and women from the Air Force which shared that invisible links with these aircraft: pilots, mechanics, civil and support staff, all united during the 43 years of activity in different air units, Argentina's Air Force chief and Malvinas veteran Brigadier Major Mario Callejo was quoted during Sunday's ceremony.
He added that hundreds of our combat pilots were trained with these aircraft and given the capacity and commitment of our engineers and mechanics, we have managed to keep them operation for 43 years.
Following its operational service and outstanding role during the South Atlantic conflict in 1982, plus the fact they are technologically outdated, has made it necessary to plan their replacement, and the acquisition of a new system that satisfies supersonic air defense capacities, and stands up to the new scenarios which times impose on us, as one of the pillars of our air-space defense system, concluded the Air Force chief.
The different options considered by Argentina include Spain's refurbished Mirage F1; the JFf-17 jointly manufactured by China and Pakistan; France's Mirage 2000; Brazil's Grippen and the United States F16. However apparently the choice is for the Israel's IAI Kfir an advanced version of the Mirage V, but conditions and terms will have to be considered by the next Argentine government and the future Defense minister, Julio Martínez.