Ukraine Will Get Ex-French Mirage 2000-5 Fighters

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France will donate surplus Dassault Mirage 2000 fighters to Ukraine, French Pres. Emmanuel Macron announced on Thursday.

The timing of the announcement—the 80th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France—is no accident. “The moment for peace can only come if Ukraine resists,” Macron said.

The Mirage deal has been in the works for many months. “We are talking about fighter planes with France,” Ukrainian Pres. Volodymyr Zelensky said in February.

Macron specified that the jets would be Mirage 2000-5s, which are optimized for air-to-air combat—and not older Mirage 2000Cs or air-to-ground Mirage 2000D attack jets. All the variants share the same basic shape and performance: a tailless delta wing, a single engine, a nose-mounted multi-mode radar and supersonic speed.

The choice of variant makes sense. The French air force retired its last few 1980s-vintage Mirage 2000Cs in 2022. Last year, a French official said just 13 Mirage 2000Cs still had “a bit of potential.” The French air force is upgrading most of its 80 or so Mirage 2000Ds for continuing service.

Surviving French Mirage 2000-5s—out of the 37 “dash-fives” Dassault built for the French air force in the 1990s—are scheduled to retire between now and 2029, but French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu has said their replacements, new Dassault Rafales, could arrive early—and speed up the process.

With a little bureaucratic urgency, there’s no reason France couldn’t equip the Ukrainian air force with a couple of dozen Mirage 2000-5s—enough to replace an existing Ukrainian fighter brigade or form a new brigade—in time to support the current conflict.

The Ukrainian air force went to war in February 2022 with around 125 warplanes, including Sukhoi Su-24 and Sukhoi Su-25 attack planes and Sukhoi Su-27 and Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters.

In 28 months of hard fighting, the Ukrainians have lost around 80 jets, but have replaced most of them with donated airframes from former Soviet satellite states—Macedonia, Poland and Slovakia—along with old airframes they pulled out of long-term storage and restored to flyable status.

Further reinforcements are on the way. Belgium, Denmark, The Netherlands and Norway have pledged a combined 85 Lockheed Martin F-16s—the first of which should arrive in a few weeks around the same time the first group of Ukrainian pilots complete their training in the United States, Denmark and Romania.

France or some other Mirage 2000 user—Greece, for example—will have to train Ukrainian crews on the delta-wing jet. France will “offer to train the pilots,” Macron said, without specifying a timeframe. This, more than the availability of airframes, could determine the pace of the Mirage initiative.

It might take a while—potentially a year or more, if the F-16 initiative’s deliberate progress is any indication—but barring a shock Russian victory or some negotiated end to the war, Mirage 2000s should eventually fly into battle over the 700-mile front line in Ukraine.

The type’s merits are well-known. “The dash-five is a rather old aircraft, but it is also specialized,” French air force Col. Anne Labadie told Combat Aircraft. “It is an aircraft exclusively dedicated to air defense, and its pilots are specialized in this.”

If the Mirage 2000s were available to Ukraine today, it’s apparent what the Ukrainians would do with them: sortie them against the Russian air force Sukhoi fighter-bombers that have been ruthlessly bombarding Ukrainian troops and civilians with as many as 3,000 precision glide bombs every month.

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1. Le Figaro:

2. Volodymyr Zelensky:

3. France 24:

4. Oryx:

5. Combat Aircraft:

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