Project ROSE (Retrofit Of Strike Element), was a program initiated by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) for the upgrades of the military avionics and electronics system of its aging Dassault Aviation– built Mirage fighter jets. The program focused on modernization of military avionics and on-board computer system of Mirage IIIE and the Mirage V supplied by Pakistani Margella Electronics, French SAGEM and the Italian SELEX consortiums, as part of the program.
Conceived in 1992 by the Pakistan Air Force, the program started in 1995 on main considerations of retiring the A–5 Fantan from active service. The Pakistan Air Force began its procurement of second-hand Mirage fighters from Australia, Lebanon, Libya, and Spain at the price range within the MoD's fund. Over 90% of the aircraft were retrofitted at the Aeronautical Complex in Kamra; few were upgraded in France. From 1996–2000, several Mirage IIIE and Mirage 5 were bought from the other countries and were upgraded under this program at the Aeronautical Complex. Further considerations for upgrades were recommended but the program was terminated due to increasingly combined costs of the spare parts and the conditions of the second–hand airframes of the Mirage IIIE and Mirage V at the time of their procurement from various countries.
It is currently expected for all of ROSE upgraded Mirage fighters jets to be remain in the combat service with Pakistan Air Force beyond 2020 in specialized Tactical Attack roles. They are expected to be replaced by JF–17 Thunder (block IV or V; if JF-17 program continues) or additional F-16s or next generation aircraft coming out Project Azm; but there are no publicly confirmed timelines or details about any of these programs.
In 1990s, the United States placed an economics and military embargo on Pakistan due to its highly secretive atomic bomb program being active since 1970s. During this time, the Indian IAF began to modernize its fighter aircraft; thus putting stress on the Pakistan Air Force. Furthermore, the United States indefinitely delayed the procurement of F-16 fighter jets of which, Pakistan had already paid the price for. Restrictions on Pakistan Air Force caused a great panic in the military as PAF was operating the American-built infrastructure and the PAF had to come up with innovative solutions to keep all its combat infrastructure operational.
In 1992, the Pakistan Air Force devised the strategy on increasing its ability on self-reliance and immediately launched the ROSE program and Sabre–II program which resulted in the successful development of the JF-17 program. It was not until 1995 when Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto released funds to MoD's for both programs. Despite objections from the United States and Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto successfully international lobbying, the PAF ultimately sought its successful procurement of the Mirage fighter plane from various countries including Australia, Belgium, Lebanon, Libya, and Spain from the period 1992 until 2003.
The French SAGEM and Italian SELEX were contracted to provide crucial consultations on military electronics and avionics in 1996. Special overhauling facilities and the designing divisions were established the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) in Kamra. Over 90% aircraft were locally retrofitted at the Aeronautical Complex; and very few aircraft were upgraded in France. Under this first phase of the program, designated as ROSE–I, around 33 Mirage III fighter jets, designated ROSE I, were upgraded to perform multiple mission types including air superiority and strike missions. The ROSE–I also configured the 34 Mirage 5 fighter jets for conducting night operations.
In 1998, the SAGEM and Italian SELEX left the program as the Margalla Electronics, DESTO, and GIDS, and NIE joined the program. In ROSE–II, around 20 Mirage fighter jets were upgraded; and 14 aircraft were configured in ROSE–III. Newer Mirages bought from Australia and Belgium were in extremely good condition with low flight hours to supplement the PAF's own fleet of 34 Mirage IIIE and 32 Mirage 5P acquired directly from France between 1967 and 1982. The ROSE project was set up to reclaim as many aircraft as possible and to upgrade them with the latest avionics and other modern systems. In 1998, the Pakistan Air Force bought the entire fleet of grounded Mirage 5's from Lebanon and upgraded them indigenously at the Aeronautical Complex.
The Pakistan Air Force's project team was formed to manage the program and held review meetings frequently in both Pakistan and France where problems were discussed. The Aeronautical Complex and its technical personnel were involved with parts manufacture and quality control. PAF test pilots validated performance of the new equipment during test-flights. In 2003, the PAF bought a total of about 50 grounded Mirage III and Mirage 5 fighter jets from Libya along with 150 engines still in sealed packaging and a huge quantity of spare parts. Most of these aircraft were to be broken up for spare parts required by the Mirage fleet already in PAF service. With this purchase, the PAF was to become the largest operator of Dassault Mirage III/Mirage 5 fighters in the world.
Mirage IIIO ROSE I
In 1991, the PAF bought 50 Australian Mirage IIIO/D. 45 of the 50 Dassault Mirage III fighters received from Australia were found to be suitable for service with the PAF, 12 of them were overhauled at PAC and made operational. After being inspected, the remaining 33 were selected for upgrade under Project ROSE. 33 of the ex-Australian Dassault Mirage IIIO/D aircraft of the PAF were modified to ROSE I standard. The cockpit was modernized with a new head-up display (HUD), "hands on throttle and stick" (HOTAS) controls, new multi-function displays (MFD) and radar altimeter and a Sagem nav/attack system. New navigation systems, including an inertial navigation system and GPS system, were also installed. Defensive systems upgrades consisted of a new radar warning receiver (RWR), electronic countermeasures (ECM) suite and counter-measure dispensing system, dispensing decoy flares and chaff to confuse enemy missiles and radar.
The FIAR Grifo M3 multi-mode radar was installed later in a second phase of the upgrade project. It was stated that ROSE I fighters could easily be in service beyond 2010. In early 1999 it was stated that problems in "certain parameters - and errors in certain modes" had surfaced during flight trials of the Grifo M3 radar in the Mirage III, but these were later solved.
The integration of a new Italian fire-control radar, the FIAR (now SELEX Galileo) Grifo M3, gave Mirage III ROSE I fighters the ability to fire advanced beyond visual range (BVR) radar guided air-to-air missiles. PAF's standard short range air-to-air missile at the time, the AIM-9L Sidewinder, was integrated with the Grifo M3 radar.
The Grifo M3 was developed specifically to fit the Mirage III and has been in full operation on the Mirage III since 2001. It has a power consumption of 200 W, operates in the X-band and is compatible with IR guided, semi-active and active radar guided missiles. The circular antenna has a diameter of 47 cm. The radar has over 30 different operational air-to-air/air-to-surface mission and navigation modes. Air to air modes include Single/Dual Target Track and Track While Scan. Air to surface modes include Real Beam Map, Doppler Beam Sharpening, Sea Low/High, Ground Moving Target Indicator, Ground/Sea Moving Target Track. Other optional modes include Raid Assessment, Non Cooperative Target Identification, SAR (synthetic aperture radar) and Precision Velocity Update. Low, medium and high pulse repetition frequencies reduce effects of ground clutter. Digital adaptive pulse compression technology, dual channel receiver, scanning coverage +/-60 degrees in both azimuth and elevation, air cooling, weighs less than 91 kg, MTBF (flight guaranteed) over 220 hours. Extensive ECCM (electronic counter-counter-measures) provisions and built in test equipment (BITE). IFF interrogators can also be integrated.
The PAF is currently installing in-flight refueling probes of South African origin to the upgraded Mirage III ROSE I aircraft, stating that it is a pilot program for the induction of aerial refueling capability into the PAF.
Mirage 5F ROSE II
Around 40 surplus fully overhauled Mirage 5F/DF(34 single and 6 dual seat) from the French Air Force were undergoing delivery to the PAF in February 1999, around 20 of which were upgraded with enhanced night-time surface strike capability.
ROSE II fighters were similar to ROSE I except they were fitted with a new SAGEM Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) & targeting system in place of Grifo M3 radar. The FLIR & targeting system mounted in a pod under the nose. This gave ROSE II fighters the capability to fly safely in the dark at very low level to avoid radar and deliver weapons with precision.)
Systems fitted by SAGEM included parts of the MAESTRO (Modular Avionics Enhancements System Te,) containing a forward-looking infra-red (FLIR) thermal imaging sensor and laser range-finder. An integrated electronic warfare suite and single-point pressure refueling system were also installed. Delivery of the last aircraft was scheduled for mid-1999.
Mirage 5F ROSE III
In the late 1990s, 33 Dassault Mirage 5F fighters were bought from France, 14 of them upgraded to ROSE III standard with a FLIR and other systems/modifications circa 2004. A follow-up to ROSE II, this upgrade gives an improved night-time precision strike capability to the Mirage with the addition of a new SAGEM navigation/attack avionics suite. A new PAF squadron was raised on 19 April 2007, No. 27 Tactical Attack "Zarrar" Squadron, to operate the Mirage 5 ROSE III fighters and specialize in night-time surface strike missions.
Conclusion of program
The ROSE program was successful and saved Pakistan Air Force's financial capital to be spent in a huge amount on foreign exchange. Under this program, further upgrades were considered and recommendations were made for the procurement of Mirage 2000 from Qatar.
Acquisitions of Mirage 2000s from Qatar were bypassed by the JS HQ when Indian IAF inducted the jets in its fleet. In 2003, the PAF bought 13 more Mirage IIIEs from Spain for spares cannibalization and, unlike the Australian or Lebanese purchases, that is just what they are being used for. Their condition dictated there was no way that any of them could be returned to service. Problems were encountered for the upgrade of the Mirage 5's role in naval variant for the Navy. However, this was eventually resolved with the procurement of the spare parts. Because of the program, the PAF gained an international reputation of expertise in maintaining and upgrading the Dassault Mirage for both air and naval versions.
Despite challenges and problems, the ROSE program provided a platform to PAF's experience on aerial technology and acquired experience as well as gained confidence to undertake any similar project with confidence in future, while the Mirage received new capabilities that improving its performance in battle dramatically. At the international ground, Pakistan's ingenuity and engineering skills have meant the Mirages continue to play a major part in the defense of Pakistan's airspace. The program was meant to be continue for some time after 2003 but the Pakistan Air Force had to terminate the program due to a combination of high costs and aging Mirage III/5 airframes.
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