France trains Ukrainian pilots to survive crash behind enemy lines

French Air and Space Force

The French Ministry of Armed Forces has denied claims that France was training Ukrainian pilots to operate Mirage 2000 fighters. 

On March 22, 2023, the daily newspaper Le Figaro stated that around 30 Ukrainian air crewmembers were receiving accelerated training to operate Dassault Aviation Mirage 2000 fighters.  

This is not the first time that the idea of transferring Mirages to Ukraine has been discussed in France. On February 18, 2023, French Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu said the authorities had not ruled out supplying fighter jets. 

“There is no taboo and our analysis criteria are well known,” Lecornu said, adding that “the transfer of planes poses very complex logistical and practical questions”. 

Questioned whether France could train pilots and technicians to fly and maintain fighters, Lecornu reiterated that “nothing is ruled out”. 

In light of these criteria, the Dassault Mirage 2000C fighter jet appeared to be the most suitable contender. On June 23, 2022, France bid farewell to this early single-seat version of the fighter, primarily used for air defense. 

A Mirage 2000C fighter jet (Rob Schleiffert / Wikimedia Commons)

“We are not training Ukrainian pilots in piloting or using weapons systems” 

However, the claims that France was providing training to Ukrainian pilots to operate the Mirage 2000 fighters were denied by the French Ministry of Armed Forces. 

“I begin by refuting a false piece of information that circulated yesterday, which claimed that Ukrainian pilots were being trained in France on Mirage 2000,” said Divisional General Yann Gravethe, during the weekly press briefing of the ministry. “First, I would like to remind everyone that the President of the Republic did indeed say that we are not closed to anything. However, we are not training Ukrainian pilots in piloting or using weapons systems.”  

“Instead, we are indeed training Ukrainian crews in France, particularly in air defense, and survival in the event that their aircraft is shot down. For operational and safety reasons for both the trainers and trainees, we cannot provide any further information.” 

It is unclear whether “air defense” training refers to the evasion of air defense by pilots, or to the operation of the Crotale NG and SAMP/T (or MAMBA) air defense systems that France continues to supply to Ukraine. 

The survival training is likely provided at the Center for Survival and Rescue Training (CFSS) at Cazaux Air Base near Bordeaux.

According to the French Air and Space Force, the training consists of two days of theoretical courses.  Trainees learn procedures to be applied in the event of an ejection or a crash on hostile territory using the equipment provided in their survival kit. They are also instructed on what to do when captured and interrogated. For 48 hours, the trainees are then submitted to a live scenario where they learn to survive in hostile territory. 

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