A French private company, ARES (Advanced REDAIR European Squadron), acquired 12 Qatar Mirage 2000 fighters to provide training to fighter pilots of the French Navy, the French newspaper Les Echos reports.
Much like the United States Air Force that recently awarded $6.4 billion worth of contracts for private adversary training, European air forces are in need of more combat training than can be generated internally.
The European Defence Agency evaluated the European air forces’ needs at around 22,000 flight hours over five years, a potential market of €300 million. The French Air Force and Naval Aviation are no exception to this rule.
The Marine Nationale, the French Navy, is particularly keen on preserving the airframe of its 42 carrier-capable Rafale Marine fighters. They were the first Rafales to be delivered by Dassault in the early 2000s. Though they have been modernized throughout the years, no new fighter jet has been received ever since.
Thus, training hours on these fighter jets are reserved for more critical missions, such as catapult-assisted take-off and arrested landing on the Charles de Gaulle nuclear aircraft carrier.
Additionally, they could soon contribute to the missions of the French Air Force, which might miss its fleet expansion goals set for 2025 by 12 fighter jets.
Consequently, the private contractor ARES was hired by the Marine Nationale to provide 600 training hours per year for the next six years. The various tasks include air-to-ground and air-to-surface strike simulations, target towing, and acting as aggressors during aerial combat training.
To complete these multiple missions, ARES acquired the 12 Dassault Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets of the Qatar Emiri Air Force. The latter progressively phased out the Mirages, replacing them with the 36 Rafales it has ordered.
Meanwhile, the French Air Force still relies on the Alphajet trainers from its own 3/8 Côte d’Or training squadron to provide an adversary to its pilots. For now, that is.