abandoned-mirage-iii-chateaudun-air-base-france (Image: Theo van Vliet; inverted Mirage III wreck at Châteaudun Air Base)

Opened in 1934 and located around 70 miles southwest of Paris, Châteaudun Air Base has seen its fair share of action over the years. Used today primarily as an aircraft storage facility and boneyard, the scars of war are clearly visible. The pockmarked grassland bears all the hallmarks of heavy bombing, and a patchwork of darker asphalt reflects hastily repaired bomb craters on the now-abandoned second runway during World War Two. Around the site, meanwhile, parked on disused taxiways and old dispersals, the hollow relics of the French Air Force’s legacy planes stand silently waiting for the end.

One of the more unusual aviation scenes, however, is the upturned Mirage III pictured above. With its main undercarriage extended and nose wheel semi-retracted, the old fighter seems to have become the centrepiece of a crash rescue scenario in a bid to train firefighters and other emergency services in the business of saving life and limb.

The Dassault Mirage III prototype first flew in November 1956 and entered military service in 1961. Though serving primarily with the French Air Force, the fighter proved so popular on the export market that an impressive 1,422 were built over the years. France retired its Mirage IIIs in 1988, though despite its ageing design a small number remain in service with Argentina and Pakistan today.

Châteaudun-Air-Base-France

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Châteaudun-Air-Base-France-3 (Images: via Google Earth; withdrawn and abandoned aircraft ostensibly stored at Châteaudun Air Base)

Many others, it seems, like the one above, have been dumped on the airfield at Châteaudun. Over the years active French Air Force jets have been stored at Châteaudun Air Base in a bid to prolong the fleet’s service life. After a spell of downtime in the hangars on the north side, aircraft would ultimately be reactivated while others rotated through the storage programme.

The facility is understood to have closed as an active air base in 2014, and it’s clear from the photographs that the airframes stored outside are ageing jets, including Sepecat Jaguars, that will never fly again. While some are lined up in rows, open to the elements, others have been cannibalised for parts and await scrapping.

All in all, Châteaudun Air Base resembles more of an aircraft graveyard than an active storage facility. The old airfield makes for an impressive sight from above, as battered carcasses of abandoned military planes create a dream location for photographers, but likely a nightmare one for many aviation enthusiasts.

Châteaudun-Air-Base-stored-jets (Image: Theo van Vliet; ‘stored’ military jets on the south side of the airfield)

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