A Dassault Mirage 2000D of the French Air Force disappeared from radar on January 9, 2019, around noon local time, as it was flying over the Jura mountains close to the border between France and Switzerland. Two pilots were on board.
The prefecture launched a search and rescue operation, but heavy snow restricts visibility. The crash seems to be confirmed as the search party found first debris and a parachute near Mignovillard, according to local media Le Progres. The two pilots, a woman and a man, are still missing.
The plane was based in Nancy-Ochey 133 Air Base, in the east of France. The base houses three fighter squadrons, all using Mirage 2000Ds.
The Mirage 2000 is a multirole fighter jet developed by Dassault Aviation in the 1970s. The D (Diversified) variant is an updated version of the airframe with two seats. Based on the Mirage 2000N (Nuclear), which was until 2018 the main nuclear strike platform of the French Air Force, the Mirage 2000D was designed for long-range precision strikes using conventional weapons. As for the nuclear role, it has since been taken over by the Rafale, another Dassault aircraft.
UPDATE 09-01-2019, 17:46 (UTC+2): In its first official statement, the French Ministry of the Armed Forces indicated that “the aircraft was on a low altitude flight training mission over the Doubs, on the edge of the Jura.”
UPDATE 10-01-2019, 10:11 (UTC+2): After a day of search, the two pilots that were on board the crashed aircraft are still missing. “We hope that we will find them alive,” said French Air Force spokesman Colonel Cyrille Duvivier in a press conference. But hopes are low. “When a pilot ejects, a beacon is automatically triggered and sends a signal. We did not detect such a signal”. An additional beacon could also be activated by pilots once on the ground in order to be located, but again, it remained silent. Colonel Duvivier added that the parachute that was found earlier could either belong to one of the pilots, or to the aircraft itself which uses it for braking.
In an interview to France 3 Lorraine, the commander of the Nancy-Ochey 133 Air Base (BA133) Yann Burion declared that the two pilots on board were experienced, and that this low altitude exercise was a routine mission.
The search and rescue operation resumed at 8am this morning, after a night of snowing. A helicopter of the French Air Force has been seen circling the presumed zone of the crash, in the vast Combe Noire forest.
In 2016, the BA133 was already affected by a dramatic accident. During a NATO exercise in the Los Llanos Air Base (ABC) of Albacete, Spain, the crash of an F-16 of the Hellenic Air Force had killed 11 people, out of which 7 belonged to the French Air Base.
UPDATE 11-01-2019, 17:46 (UTC+2): The Minister of Armies Florence Parly announced on the evening of January 11, 2019, that the pilot and the navigator on board the crashed Mirage 2000D were found dead. The circumstances of the incident have not yet been established.