Ukraine ‘loudly’ wants F-16, but secretly trains Mirage 2000 pilots

PARIS, FRANCE — About 30 Ukrainian pilots are receiving accelerated training to pilot the French Mirage 2000 fighter jets. The training already lasts about a month and a half. This is reported by Le Figaro in their extensive article. Training takes place at Mont de Marsan and Nancy air bases.

Ukraine 'loudly' wants F-16, but secretly trains Mirage 2000 pilots
Photo credit: Pixabay

France is often criticized for not showing a clear position against Russia. In reality, however, Paris was one of the first European capitals to respond to Kyiv’s requests for military aid since the beginning of the war. If the facts are reviewed, it will be found that France first decided to send self-propelled howitzers – Caesar. Then, again, France was the first to send heavily armored combat vehicles – AMX.

The desire for Ukraine to receive fighters is considered not only in Washington. There are reports that Ukrainian President Mr. Volodymyr Zelensky has asked almost every nation supplying arms to Ukraine to send fighter jets. France also received a similar request. It was officially announced at the end of January this year. Kyiv wanted delivery of French Rafale fighter jets.

The training of the 30 Ukrainian pilots in France is some kind of signal that Paris may have accepted Mr. Zelensky’s request but compromised on domestic politics. I.e. in the Ministry of Defense that they rejected the request for the Rafale, but that they preferred the Mirage 2000.

Already at the beginning of the year, the French Minister of Defense Mr. Sébastien Lecornu told reporters that sending launchers for the needs of the Ukrainian Air Force is not a taboo subject. I.e. France sees no foreign policy reason to refrain from such action, thus once again showing its clear position towards Russia, despite criticism. To do so, Mr. Lecornu said at the time, Paris would have to analyze three criteria affecting national security. They are the usefulness and effectiveness of the weapons for the armed forces of Ukraine, the lack of risk of escalation, and the weakening of the defense capability of the French army.

New munition under the French Rafale F4.1 wings - the AASM 1000
Photo credit: French MoD

Experts are already speaking on the first criterion. According to French military experts, the Mirage 2000 does not have enough available ammunition. Also, this aircraft will not meet French requirements and it is assumed that it will not have “the level of endurance” expected in Ukraine.

Whether such a delivery will be perceived as an exasperation by Moscow – we can only guess. But we are witnessing definiteness, at least in the statements of the Kremlin. For example, Britain’s intention to supply Ukraine with enriched uranium projectiles met with a reciprocal response from Moscow. I.e. Russia will respond in kind.

As for the weakening of the defense capabilities of the French army, here the answer is categorically in favor of Ukraine. The Mirage 2000s are no longer in service with the French Air Force, but they do have them available. This means that Paris can either provide its own or facilitate re-exports from countries that still use them. They are India, UAE, Taiwan, Greece, Egypt, Brazil, Qatar, and Peru.

If France plays its cards right, it can secure future production of its Dassault Rafale. Until just a few months ago, the production lines of this fighter were on the verge of halting. However, an order of 164 fighters secures the future in 2023 and beyond. So if Paris allows the Mirage 2000 to be re-exported to Ukraine by foreign operators, it could begin negotiations to sell the Rafale to customers accustomed to the French design.

About Mirage 2000

Dassault Mirage 2000-9 (Mk 2) multirole combat aircraft
Photo: Savvas Savvaidis

The Mirage 2000 is quite outdated technology. The plane made its first flight in 1978 and until now about 600 units have been produced. It would be hard to match the capabilities of the F-16 or the other French Rafale fighter. Its production was stopped in 2007. The chances of the Mirage 2000 ending up in Ukraine are high. Especially because the west mostly supplies outdated retired equipment, and sometimes something more modern.

Otherwise, the fighter is powered by a single SNECMA M53-P2 afterburning turbofan engine, 64.3 kN [14,500 lbf] thrust dry, 95.1 kN [21,400 lbf] with afterburner. Can carry max. takeoff weight of 17,000 kg [37,479 lb]. The maximum flying speed that the aircraft can reach is 2,336 km/h [1,452 mph, 1,261 kn] / Mach 2.2 at high altitude and 1,110 km/h [690 mph; 600 kn] at sea level.

It is armed with two 30 mm [1.2 in] DEFA 554 revolver cannons, 125 rounds per gun. There are a total of nine hard points that can support a weight of 6,300 kg. It can fire air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, but not anti-radiation missiles. It can also drop unguided and guided bombs.


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