The Dassault Mirage III was a second-generation French fighter, and the first in a long line of delta-winged Dassaults that continue to the present day with the Rafale. Born out of a 1952 specification by the French government for a lightweight, all-weather interceptor, the first Mirage IIIs were flying in the late 1950s, and in 1958 a Mirage IIIA was clocked at Mach 2.2, making it the first European aircraft to exceed Mach 2 in level flight.
The Mirage IIIC, the first major production model, first flew in October 1960. The IIIC was an all-weather interceptor and outfitted as such, with a single Atar 9B turbojet, 2 x 30mm DEFA cannons and five pylons for carrying a variety of missiles and tanks.
The Mirage IIICJ – an export version for Israel – proved itself in combat during the Six Day War in 1967, which bolstered its reputation and helped seal several more export and licensed-production deals. Beyond France, variants of the Mirage III have served with several countries, including Israel, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Pakistan, Switzerland, Abu Dhabi, Egypt and more.
The Mirage III also had significant impact on future Dassault aircraft, directly informing the Mirage V (and through it the Israeli Kfir), Mirage IV and Mirage IIIV, and spiritually informing the modern French inventory of Mirage 2000s and Rafales