838 operating with 2 Squadron Based at Air Force Base Hoedspruit was purchased as a Reconnaissance Fighter.  Equipped with only 2 x 30mm cannons for self defence and long range supersonic wing and belly fuel tanks for extended range, the Mirage IIIRZ , painted in standard Bush war camouflage scheme, was used specifically for carrying out detailed tactical reconnaissance of selected targets as well as post strike assessment of damage inflicted by SAAF air strikes on enemy targets.

Delivered to the South African Air Force in 1967, Mirage IIIRZ 838 was used extensively over Angola throughout the Border war, carrying out tactical reconnaissance of enemy targets and post attack damage assessments for intelligence purposes.  This aircraft carried five OMERA 31 cameras in the nose section that were focused in four different arrangements for ultra low, medium and high flight as well as night missions.  Mirage 838 was first used on Operation Reindeer (1978), flying vitally important aerial photography missions, and many strike missions against SWAPO/PLAN and FAPLA ground targets and was used throughout the Border war until the conclusion of Operation Modular, Hooper and Packer in 1988.

During her lifetime, Mirage 838 also took part in various South African Defence Force combined exercises and it was during one of these exercises, code-named “Exercise Thunder Chariot” that some enterprising 2 Squadron ground technicians decided to paint a magnificent set of shark teeth on the aircraft nose.  The aircraft continued to carry this “set of teeth” for the remainder of her operational career until phased out when the SAAF elected to replace the Mirage fleet with the more modern and upgraded Cheetah fleet of aircraft.  All the surviving Mirage IIIRZ aircraft were handed over to the SAAF Museum and besides the aircraft on display at Zwartkop, one of these aircraft is also on display at the SAAF Museum in Ysterplaat in Cape Town.

Dimensions: Length = 15.5m, Wing Span = 8.22, Height = 4.2m.
Mass: 6.6 tons, 13.5 tons max.
Power plant: SNECMA - Atar 09C, 6200kg with afterburner (IIIRZ)
Performance:  Mach 2.2 (23360 km/h) at 12000m, Mach 1.1 at sea level.
Service Ceiling: 17000m (IIIRZ), Radius: 290 - 1200 km.
Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons and 5 x OMERA 31 cameras in the nose.