Mirage 2000-5F: is it a worthy addition to the F-16?

Mirage 2000-5F: is it a worthy addition to the F-16?

Роман Приходько Роман Приходько
Aviation Europe Fighter jet France Mirage 2000 Ukraine Ukrainian Air Force World

The Mirage 2000-5 fighters, the transfer of which to Ukraine was announced by the French government, became an addition to the F-16 that European countries would transfer to Ukraine in the near future.

Despite the relative relevance of French fighters in the Ukrainian Air Force, they will fill a narrow niche of air defense aircraft due to the peculiarities of their onboard systems and the nomenclature of their weapons.

Appearance and engagement

The Mirage 2000-5F fighters were developed in response to a lag in the French industry regarding aircraft capable of using missile weapons with active radar homing against air targets and an expanded set of precision weapons. The 5F modification aimed to modernize the aircraft’s avionics and integrate the latest MICA air-to-air missiles, which featured both active radar homing and infrared homing options.

MICA missiles were intended to replace Magic 2 missiles with IR seeker and Super 530s with semi-active radar homing. A delay in the development of missiles with active radar seekers prevented France from joining the so-called FOX-3 club in a timely manner.

The development of the modernization package began in the 1980s, and the first aircraft with updated equipment was introduced in 1989 to facilitate the development of additional technologies.

The 2000s version was developed primarily for export customers to offer greater capabilities amid the emergence of new fighters, particularly the F-16. Despite this, the French Air Force initially ignored this modification. However, the Gulf War and the conflicts in the Balkan states highlighted a significant lag in the capabilities of the French Air Force compared to other nations’ air forces, prompting a reassessment by the French command.

In 1993, Dassault began pressuring the French government to place a contract for the Mirage 2000-5F aircraft, which the company planned to upgrade from existing Mirage 2000C models. This pressure was driven by the lack of export orders, and securing a government order would not only provide necessary funding but also serve as valuable advertising for the aircraft.

After discussions, the French Ministry of Defense allocated funding for the modernization of 37 M2000C aircraft to the M2000-5F level, which was supposed to be a temporary solution before the arrival of the new generation Rafale fighter.

The first modernized aircraft of this type were adopted by the French Air Forces in 2000, and they immediately interested foreign customers, in particular Greece, Qatar, and the UAE. For its part, the UAE sought to get a more multifunctional option, so Dassault began to work on the upgrade variant under the 2000-9 index. This version involved upgrading the radar and associated avionics, reconfiguring weapons, and increasing operational range.

Aircraft upgrades and production continued until November 23, 2007, when Dassault announced the completion of production of new aircraft in this configuration and transferred the last Mirage 2000-5 Mk.2 to the Hellenic Air Force.

Technical specifications

Before discussing the technical characteristics, it should be noted that Ukraine will receive Mirage 2000-5F aircraft from the French Air and Space Force. These aircraft were modernized from Mirage 2000Cs produced between 1982 and 1986.

The aircraft have been upgraded to the Mirage 2000-5F Vi level, featuring a full set of modern communication systems, including Link 16, MICA air-to-air missiles with either active radar homing (ARH) or infrared seekers, an upgraded RDY-2 radar, and an improved engine.

The addition of the Link 16 system enables the aircraft to receive and transmit relevant data between aircraft, and allows for the radio adjustment of weapons, primarily adjusting MICA missiles when launched at long ranges.

Furthermore, the aircraft can receive target designation from NATO AWACS aircraft, fire at those coordinates, or act as a platform to adjust launched missiles.

The RDY-2 on-board Pulse-Doppler radar, introduced for the French M2000-5F between 1998 and 2000, represents the first series of multifunctional radars. It provides a maximum detection range for aerial targets of up to 120 km and up to 40 km in ground target search mode.

French fighters were given limited ground target search capabilities as the upgrades were primarily focused on enhancing their ability to combat aerial targets.

Technically, the radar can track up to 24 targets and engage 4 of them simultaneously. As a Pulse-Doppler radar, it offers effective detection of low-altitude targets against ground clutter.

Read more about the aircraft of the Mirage 2000 family in our article

In addition to detection and tracking, the radar is used to transmit priority coordinates for launch to the missile. The main missile weapons are MICA guided missiles. The active radar homing (ARH) version of the missile began entering service with the French Air Force in 1996, followed by the infrared version in 2000.

The MICA missile was primarily developed as a modular platform for various seekers, but despite the advantages of modularity, in the end, both variants of the missile were not very successful in their characteristics. First of all, it was due to the fact that they didn’t have the advantages that are inherent in specially designed missiles with radar seekers. The most important thing is the maximum range of the missile, which is declared to be 80 km and is inferior to such missiles as the American AIM-120 (120 km), European Meteor (more than 200 km), Russian R-77 (110 km) or Japanese Type 99 (120 km).

The infrared seeker variant has slightly more advantages, namely a range of 60 km, which is limited by the cooling time of the seeker and relatively good maneuverability. Although compared to analogues that use IR seeker, the missile has a slightly higher weight of 113 kg. At the same time, the warhead of the missile is 13 kg, which is at par with modern analogues, but less than three times that of missiles with ARH seeker. The maximum speed of the missile is 4 Mach.

It should be noted separately that a significant drawback of the missile is its high cost. As a modular missile, its unit cost is approximately €2 million, which is significantly more expensive compared to the prospective AIM-9X Block 3 at $600 thousand or the AIM-120D at $1.6 million.

Addition to the F-16 as part of the Ukrainian Air Force

Since Mirage 2000-5F fighters were developed primarily for the role of air superiority, they have retained this role throughout their service, and it is highly likely that they will be transferred to Ukraine in the same configuration.

While the Mirage 2000-5F aircraft may not match the capabilities of the F-16 fighter, it has the potential to serve as a high-quality addition to Ukraine’s fleet alongside Soviet-era aircraft and directly complement the F-16. Its primary role in this context could be crucial, particularly in intercepting cruise missiles and drones. However, the cost of its weaponry makes it expensive for these specific purposes, and there may not be another niche within the Ukrainian Air Force where it can effectively operate.

There is a possibility that French AASM guided bombs will be integrated onto the aircraft, but this is a long process. On the other hand, the use of bomb weapons is possible without their integration into aircraft systems, as demonstrated by Soviet-era aircraft.

In general, with the use of the Link 16 system, the Mirage will be able to exchange data in real time, transmit coordinates to each other, and achieve a high level of interaction both among themselves and with the F-16.

Read more about the aircraft of the Mirage 2000 family in our article

Aviation Europe Fighter jet France Mirage 2000 Ukraine Ukrainian Air Force World