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French Knife: Mirage 2000D Fighter and Prospects of Its Use in UAF

French Knife: Mirage 2000D Fighter and Prospects of Its Use in UAF

Роман Приходько Роман Приходько
Aviation Europe France Mirage 2000 Ukrainian Air Force World

Recent reports from French media suggest that the French government plans to transfer Dassault Mirage 2000D strike aircraft to Ukraine. These aircraft have significant potential for employing both bomb and missile armaments. However, the question arises: are they truly needed by the Ukrainian Air Force, and what advantages do they offer compared to other aircraft from Western countries?

Appearance in the French Air Force

The development of a specialized attack variant of the Mirage 2000D was not initially apparent. Originally, this variant was designed for carrying ASMP and ASMP-A with a nuclear warhead, similar to the Mirage 2000N. However, over time, the French Air Force began developing a conventional version based on it, capable of employing precision-guided bombs and missiles. The new aircraft, designated Mirage 2000D, was finalized in 1990, with its maiden flight taking place on February 19, 1991.

Like the 2000N variant, the Mirage 2000D was developed based on the two-seater Mirage 2000B trainer-combat aircraft. However, it was equipped with a unique set of electronics that enabled it to expand its capabilities as a strike aircraft.

By April 9, 1993, the Mirage 2000D was officially incorporated into the French Air Force. This occurred two years after its first flight and was primarily associated with the Gulf War, during which the French Air Force demonstrated limited capabilities in night flights. The new aircraft was primarily intended to enhance the ability for precision strikes against ground targets during nighttime operations. According to the initial plan of the program, by the summer of 1993, the Air Force aimed to acquire six aircraft of this type and a corresponding number of crews capable of effectively employing laser-guided air-to-ground AS-30L missiles both day and night.

The adoption of the new strike aircraft helped the French Air Force compete with the air forces of the United Kingdom and the United States, both of which possessed powerful strike aviation stationed in Europe.

The initial Mirage 2000D aircraft were integrated into squadron EC1/3 ‘Navarre’ based at Mont-de-Marsan airbase.

Air borne system and radar

As an all-weather strike aircraft, the Mirage 2000D is equipped with corresponding radar, navigation, and electronic systems, aiding the pilot during flights with poor visibility and at low altitudes.

The aircraft features an advanced weapon control system designated as PDLCT-S, enabling the use of the full spectrum of air-to-ground weapons available in the French Air Force inventory, from conventional bombs to cruise missiles, as well as bombs with laser and thermal guidance.

Primarily, the aircraft was integrated with the ATLIS II laser targeting pod, used for guiding bombs and missiles via laser beam. Additionally, it could be used for navigation during night flights and poor visibility conditions, as well as for reconnaissance and search operations.

To use the laser targeting pod, the aircraft was equipped with two JVN displays: one for the pilot and one for the navigator. These displays were used to show cartographic images or imagery from the hanging container camera.

Additionally, a special VTL screen was installed to provide navigation information, as well as speed, altitude, heading, and other vital data.

For enhanced situational awareness, a radar warning receiver system was installed on board to alert the pilot and navigator to radar detection by hostile radar systems. Furthermore, an EPAK countermeasure container was installed, containing chaff and flares.

The aircraft is equipped with the Antilope 5 pulse-Doppler radar, used in conjunction with the autopilot for terrain-following at low altitudes. Additionally, it provides precise navigation through its terrain-mapping system and is integrated into the onboard weapon control system for all-weather, day and night operations. Moreover, it serves as a complement for guiding precision weaponry, such as air-to-ground missiles and bombs with combined homing heads.

It should be noted that to date, the aircraft has undergone comprehensive modernization, which included upgrading the ULISS 52P navigation system with global positioning capability, updating the ICMS 2 countermeasure system featuring an enhanced radar warning system SERVAL, and Chameleon Jammer and Spirale containers of chaff and flares.

Additionally, the Link 16 system has been installed, enabling more efficient usage of onboard armament and real-time information exchange with allied aircraft.

Additionally, a new pod-mounted laser targeting container, Damocles, has been integrated, providing enhanced capabilities in the search, targeting, and tracking of ground targets in adverse weather conditions. It also features higher resolution and uses a new third-generation thermal imager.

Mirage 2000D armament

Since 1999, the aircraft has been actively used by French forces in various conflicts, including the Afghan War, the Iraq War, and some operations in Central Africa. During these operations, it demonstrated excellent capabilities in employing a diverse range of weaponry, including guided and unguided aviation bombs such as Mk 82, GBU-12, GBU-16, GBU-22, GBU-49, and GBU-24A/B. Additionally, over time, it has been equipped to carry cruise missiles like SCALP-EG and Apache.

Starting in 2005, the Mirage 2000D underwent a major upgrade aimed at integrating new missile and bomb armament. This modernization program, designated Mirage 2000D-R2, aimed to update the weapon control system by incorporating new models of missile and bomb armament acquired by the French Air Force between 1994 and 2009.

Thus, as part of the RMV (Rénovation Mi-Vie) program aimed at extending the service life of Mirage 2000D aircraft in the French Air and Space Force until 2040, 55 of the most suitable Mirage 2000D aircraft underwent modernization.

The modernization program included the following changes: upgrading avionics, adding the CC422 gun container, integrating new MICA IR air-to-air missiles to replace the outdated Magic-2 missiles, and integrating two new American-made bombs, the GBU-48 and GBU-50. In addition, the aircraft became capable of using French AASM precision kits, also known as HAMMER.

The AASM kit can be used with American bombs of the Mk-80 family weighing from 100 to 1000 kg. However, the Mirage 2000D can only release bombs weighing up to 500 kg.

Aircraft in the Aerospace Forces of France

To date, the French Air Force operates around 70 Mirage 2000D strike aircraft, all concentrated in the third fighter wing at Nancy-Ochey Air Base. Since Mirage 2000D production lasted from 1992 to 2000, the air fleet is relatively fresh. Over this time, the aircraft have undergone several significant upgrades, enhancing their combat capabilities.

Furthermore, according to the French Air Force’s plans, the aircraft are expected to remain in service until 2040, confirming their suitability for combat operations. The first upgraded aircraft were delivered to the air force in January 2021, with the transfer of the remaining ones expected to be completed by 2028.

Prospects for use in the Ukrainian Air Forces

The presence of this type of aircraft in the Ukrainian Air Force could significantly increase the number of carriers of SCALP-EG cruise missiles and AASM bombs.

This is due to the fact that both types of weapons have a long range relative to their purpose. The SCALP-EG cruise missile has a maximum range of more than 500 km, while the bomb with an AASM kit, which in addition to the homing head is also equipped with a rocket motor, has a range of up to 100 km when dropped at an altitude of 8 km.

In addition, the aircraft could potentially serve as a replacement for the aging fleet of Su-24M frontline bombers, which are insufficient in number, have a high flight hour requirement, and do not meet modern operational requirements.

Aviation Europe France Mirage 2000 Ukrainian Air Force World