After an impressive career of nearly 40 years, the Dassault Mirage F1 is now in the end phase of its career. In the third week of November 2013, the last operational Mirage F1s and its crews went for the last time on a bombing course. The shooting camp is known in France as "Champ de Tir" and includes aspects such as the dropping of live weapons. The commander of Escadron de Reconnaissance 2/33 (ER02.033), also known as "Savoie", is Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin Souberbielle.
There are still 20 Mirage F1s in operational service which are used for reconnaissance and bombing missions. It is the last "Champ de Tir" with real bombs for the Mirage F1 crews. This campaign is intended to qualify the pilots for delivering real bombs. Pilots of this squadron will remain in operational service until mid-2014; most of the pilots are retrained for other types of aircraft within the French Air Force. Cazaux airbase is chosen for these kinds of shooting camps, because it is a very large area which is suitable for these kinds of training missions with live ammunition. All squadrons of the French Air Force are every year active at this air base to qualify their bombing skills. The airbase has also the capacity to store large amounts of live weapons. Cazaux is in terms of area, the largest air base in France, because a disused shooting/bombing range is a part of the airbase.
The pilots of EC02.033 will practice firing live weapons during the Champ de Tir. Every year all the squadrons of the French Air Force will practice in a period of 1 or 2 weeks with BDG (Bombe De Guerre, live ammunition) at Cazaux airbase. The Mirages will release live bombs at the Captieux Range which is located at 100km from Cazaux. The purpose of the exercise is to learn how to drop live ammunition. The standard unguided bombs which are used, are the Mk82 (500 pounds), the MK83 (1000 pounds) and the Mk84 (2000 pounds). Laser-guided weapons are basically unguided bombs which have been updated to laser-guided bombs. The bombs have fins mounted on the rear of the bomb to control the direction of the bomb during dropping.
The young pilots need to achieve their bombardment skills by dropping a live bomb 2 times a year. They must drop 1 unguided bomb and 1 laser guided bomb to get their qualifications. The more experienced pilots need to drop only 1 live bomb a year to get their qualifications; it doesn't matter if this bomb is guided or unguided.
The last Mirage F1s will be phased out in July 2014. The retired Mirage F1s will be flown to Chateaudun where they go into storage. It is not yet clear if several aircraft will be sold to other countries after their retirement in France. Most of the aircraft will be dismantled and eventually scrapped. The last flight of the Mirage F1 is scheduled during the parade in Paris on July 14. The aircraft will fly their final mission during this famous parade. The Mirages will open the aerial parade as a tribute to the F1 during this parade in Paris.
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