In April 2018, the AFP News Agency published an article detailing its visit to the Mirage Rebuild Factory (MRF) at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). The complete AFP article is available on Dawn News, but it provides an insight into the MRF’s activities in keeping the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) Dassault Mirage III and 5 fighters serviceable, especially with much of the fleet averaging 50 years in terms of airframe age.
Interestingly, AFP was able to extract the reason why the PAF persists with operating the Mirage III/5, i.e. its continuing value as an effective strike aircraft, which the retired PAF Air Commodore Tariq Yazdani described (to AFP) as a “very agile aircraft capable of penetrating deep into the enemy’s territory without being detected by radar, which makes its sole mission — to drop bombs on the enemy’s position — quite easy.”
Since its introduction to the PAF fleet in the late 1960s, the Mirage III/5 has transitioned from being the PAF’s mainstay high-tech fighter in the 1970s to a complementary asset to the newer F-16 in the 1980s. Today, the Mirage III/5 may not command as much attention as the F-16 and JF-17 as an air-to-air asset, but it is significantly more than just a valuable strike fighter – it is the PAF’s prime strike asset.
This prominence stems from two factors.
First is the straightforward reality that the PAF has not yet been able to secure a suitable successor. The cause primarily stems from a lack of funding (i.e. cash on-hand or financing mechanisms such as a supplier line-of-credit), but a limited pool of willing suppliers with aircraft that can substantively improve upon the Mirage III/5 to warrant the costly shift to a new platform.
Second, the Mirage III/5 is the PAF’s sole delivery platform for key stand-off weapons (SOW), namely the H-2 and H-4 glide-bombs (which are derived from the Denel Dynamics Raptor I and Raptor II – ranges of 60 km and 120 km, respectively) and Ra’ad I and Ra’ad II air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM), which have ranges of 350 km and 550 km, respectively. The Mirage 5PA3 can also carry the MBDA AM39 Exocet anti-ship missile (AShM). Prior to the C-802-equipped JF-17, the Mirage 5PA3 was the PAF’s only AShW asset – it still operates from the Masroor Air Base through the No. 32 Tactical Wing.
The complete article is available to Quwa Premium subscribers here.
 “Thrifty at 50: How the Pakistan Air Force keeps ageing Mirages flying”. AFP (via Dawn News). 29 April 2018. URL: https://www.dawn.com/news/1404605 (Last Accessed: 04 May 2018).