Photographer: Jean-Michel Lefebvre ©
Date: May 17, 1972
Size: 6x6 slide, 135 b&w negatives.
Subject: Flight Test Center
Place: Istres AFB N° 125
Caption: During very short final to runway 03 at Le Bourget during the 1983 Paris Airshow, the Mirage 2000 prototype of Avions Marcel Dassault/Bréguet Aviation.
About this second and last part of a day spent at the Istres Air Base, I have regrets that nothing had been planned to take pictures from runway of exciting take-off or landing FAS C-135Fs and Mirage IVs, also M.IV 02 belonging to the CEV flight test center as so as the then rare Mirage F1 type existing only by three pre-production machines... As for Part One, pictures are coming as they were impressed from the 135 cartridges and only a very few have been deleted. I have kept the integrality of pictures of F1 02 after its flight test because, during all my active years of Press, I never had another occasion to assist to such a test event, aviation journalists generally being maintained far from what was considered as a " golden subject for intelligence activities ".
I give you the
adventure I lived during 1971, being then just under procedure to
be accredited as journalist near the French Armée de l'Air. To
meet a requirement of my friend Alan W. Hall, then Editor of the
brand new " Aviation News " published in Great Britain,
I wrote to all C/O having Mirage IIIs on their air bases and ask
them they send me pictures of tradition flight insignas applied
on vertical fins of the delta fighters; this corresponded to two
or three pictures for each operational squadron. Result was a
notice to attend in the offices of the famous French DST... Yes,
you don't dream...
When entering in the office, a man told me " You are charged for " open intelligence to the benefit of Great Britain ". I burst with laugh...and the man also !!! Happily, the DST officer had the idea ( to not say the intelligence ! ), as preliminary work, to get a complete set of what was published in matter of Aviation Magazines, including foreign ones, sold in Paris specialised shops. He took several mags and commented the very detailed pictures of the latest french prototypes and other combat aircraft in service, including very detailed 3-view and cut-away line drawings, and asked me quite a number of things about my past and future, my links with the world of aeronautic, about my father who was a reserve commander medical doctor of Armée de l'Air, about my mother of Alsacian origins which could gave an opportunity to consider her as rather German minded though of fully French nationality...Finally he clearly concluded that my tails were a funny affair and with a quite friendly attitude, he told me the story. Several AdlA colonels were separately intrigued by my picture requirements and wrote to their hierarchy at FATAC ( Tactical Air Force Command ) and CAFDA ( Air Defense Command ). And military security specialists and commanding Generals met and made deduction that " something mysterious " ( we spoke of Mirages ! ) in the various Mirage III tails was of the highest interest for the Royal Air Force, more probably for the British Aerospace Industry ! And so the terrific charge you know was worked to...
When we left, the officer nicely proposed me to send interesting pictures of foreign aircraft if some came on his desk... As I never received one, I now deduct that the best " intelligence pictures " are not done by official spying specialists but rather by aviation journalists or aircraft enthusiasts published by the aeronautical press...and next used by intelligence services or by ops unit commanders to maintain pilots with a high aircraft recognition level !!! ( at the time spy satellits had no good eyes )
So, after my Good Time Press period, I may consider that in Intelligence Agencies my code name surely was Douglas Spy_raider !!!
LOL as we write...