Ukraine explores Mirage 2000D fighter transfer from French Air Force

U.S. Air Force photo

Ukraine is actively exploring the acquisition of Mirage 2000D fighter jets, according to Lieutenant General Mykola Oleshchuk, the Chief of Staff of the Ukrainian Air Force, who has hinted at the possibility of adding the French fighter-bomber to reinforce the strike capability of its fleet. 

In a message shared via Telegram on January 14, 2024, Oleshchuk acknowledged the challenge of mastering new Western aircraft types but expressed confidence in the process. 

“Of course, we will not be able to immediately abandon the operation of Soviet aircraft,” the Air Chief of Staff explained. “Alongside the F-16, the MiG-29 will operate in the sky. The combat capabilities of the Su-24M bombers may be strengthened by the Mirage-2000D, and the Su-25 attack aircraft by the A-10 Thunderbolt II.” 

Though Ukraine’s interest in the Mirage 2000 fighter has been discussed on several occasions since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, it is the first time that the 2000D, a variant still operated by the French Air Force to this day, has been designated.   

Previous speculation surrounded the supply of either outdated Mirage 2000C fighters that France phased out in June 2022, or 12 Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets, an air superiority variant of the aircraft, from Qatar.  

However, since then, the Qatari 2000-5 fighters have caught the interest of the Indonesian authorities, which are seeking to acquire an interim fleet while waiting for their new Rafale jets to be delivered.  

Two French squadrons [1/2 Cigognes, 3/11 Corse – ed. note] are still operating the Mirage 2000-5, and though they should eventually be phased out and replaced by Rafales, no official timeline has been announced. 

What is the Mirage 2000D variant? 

A Dassault Mirage 2000D fighter-bomber (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Mirage 2000D (Diversified) variant is an updated twin-seat version of the multirole fighter jet developed by Dassault Aviation in the 1970s. Based on the Mirage 2000N (Nuclear), which served as the primary nuclear strike platform for the French Air Force until 2018 [since replaced in this role by the Rafale – ed. note], the Mirage 2000D is specifically designed for long-range precision strikes using conventional weapons. 

The fleet operated by the French Air Force is currently undergoing a modernization campaign to update the avionics and allow the employment of a new cannon pod and MICA air-to-air missiles, with the first aircraft delivered in 2021 and deliveries initially scheduled until 2025.  

However, in January 2023, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the next Military Planning Law (LPM) for 2024-2030 would result in the transition of the fighter fleet of the French Air and Space Force to “all Rafale,” suggesting the retirement of the Mirage 2000. In April 2023, the drafted LPM revealed a reduction in the number of renovated aircraft from 55 to 48. 

In September 2023, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported that he had reached a deal with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on training Ukrainian pilots in France.  

Speculations arose that France could thus be providing training for the Mirage 2000, though a month before, General James Hecker, commander of US Air Forces in Europe, US Air Forces Africa, and NATO Allied Command indicated that Ukrainian pilots selected to operate the F-16 would “go down to France and fly in the Alpha Jet for a little bit”. That information was never confirmed by the French authorities.   

More information might arise soon, with the Defense Minister of Ukraine Rustem Umierov expected to meet his French counterpart Sébastien Lecornu in Paris on January 18, 2024. 

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