Mirage or Reality? Ukraine’s F-16 Wait Continues, Whispers of Mirage 2000 Deal Grow Louder

Ukraine's Fighter Fleet Makeover: Mirage 2000s in the Mix, But Obstacles Linger.

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

One of Ukraine’s foremost concerns in the past year has been acquiring F-16 fighter-bombers from its Western allies. Ukraine has made significant progress in addressing this issue, having secured the support of several European nations, including Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United States, whose approval was crucial. The country had planned to receive the initial aircraft of this type within the next few weeks, but the delivery has been postponed.

The notion that Ukraine might obtain the Mirage 2000 has been circulating in recent times with differing levels of intensity. The subject will be discussed during a meeting on January 18 in Paris between the defence ministers of France and Ukraine.

According to a March 2023 report in the Figaro newspaper, Ukrainian pilots were undergoing training at the aviation bases of Mont-de-Marsan and Nancy in preparation for operating the Mirage 2000. The French Ministry of Defence, nevertheless, declined to verify these rumours.

Then, an April publication of the French Military Programming Bill for 2024-30 contained a provision that may spark speculation regarding the delivery of Mirage 2000 aircraft to Ukraine. More specifically, it stated that the mid-life “repair” count for Mirage 2000D aircraft was reduced from 55 to 48. Is balance seven to be sent to Ukraine?

President Macron declared in an interview with TF1 the following month that he had granted authorisation for training Ukrainian fighter pilots. Nonetheless, he rejected the notion of contributing combat aircraft to Kyiv.

In July, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rekindled speculation regarding a possible French warplane donation by affixing his signature to the SCALP cruise missile deal France subsequently provided to the Ukrainian air force.

In response to a query regarding the potential donation of Mirage 2000 to Ukraine, Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu stated at a 2023 hearing of the French National Assembly: “We are changing. So I won’t say more.”

BFMTV, a French publication, reports that one of the senators questioned Sebastien Lecorne regarding the feasibility of transferring twelve decommissioned and stored Mirage 2000C aircraft to the Armed Forces in the summer of 2022. Another senator enquired if it was accurate that Ukrainian Mirage 2000 pilots would receive training on Polish soil. Lecornyu responded that the ongoing debate on this subject stems from the necessity to establish priorities first.

Lecornu failed to specify whether the issue is solely attributable to the Mirage 2000C’s limited capabilities for engaging ground targets and conducting aerial combat and its high rate of wear and tear.

Currently, the French Air Force operates 65 Mirage 2000D strike aircraft and 12 Mirage 2000-5 fighters; these aircraft are slated for complete decommissioning and replacement by the Rafale by 2030. Consequently, transferring these planes to Ukraine would not compromise France’s defensive capabilities.

According to a specialised website, Intelligence Online, Sébastien Lecornu and his Ukrainian counterpart Rustem Umerov debated providing “a fleet of six Mirage 2000 aircraft.”

The potential delivery of the Mirage 2000D was recently mentioned by the Chief of Staff of the Ukrainian Air Force, Nikolai Oleschuk while discussing the provision of A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft.

The four combat aircraft varieties in Ukraine’s inventory are MiG-29, Su-33, Su-24, and Su-25. They are slated to be progressively substituted with equipment from the West. In a Telegram message dated January 14, General Oleschuk stated that the MiG-29 would operate in tandem with the F-16. He added that A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft will augment the capabilities of the Su-25 attack aircraft and Mirage2000, the Su-24M bombers, respectively.

The defining characteristic of the Mirage 2000 fighter is its delta wing, which grants it exceptional manoeuvrability and high-velocity capabilities. The light weight of the aircraft’s structure enables it to attain exceptional levels of performance and fuel economy.

Mirage 2000 weaponry may consist of air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles, rockets, and explosives, such as the laser-guided bomb (LGB), MICA missile, and SCALP missile.

These fighters can travel at a maximum speed of 2300 km/h and an altitude of 18 km.

The Mirage 2000 D variant is engineered to breach adversary air defence systems regardless of the time of day or weather by employing laser-guided precision-guided aviation armaments.

Numerous nations operate Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft; however, France possesses the most Mirage 2000 D variants.

The Mirage 2000D is an evolution from the Mirage 2000N, originally designed to transport tactical nuclear weapons. Its active deployment commenced in 1993.

The Mirage 2000D can transport the SCALP cruise missile and maintains a high flight rate even at low altitudes. As part of the ongoing modernisation programme, these aircraft will also be equipped with MICA family air-to-air missiles.

Should Ukraine opt to induct the Mirage 2000 family of aircraft, the precise time required to deliver and train pilots is difficult to ascertain in advance.


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