Despite having about 100 Dassault Rafale B/Cs in the Air Force inventory, France sees itself forced to keep its older Mirage 2000D operational to keep the ground attack capabilities of the Armée de l’Air at proper levels. It even wants the Deltas to drop below altitudes they were not meant to do when designed – learning from recent missions in the skies of Southwest Asia.
Dassault Aviation received the order – by French defence procurement agency DGA – to renovate 55 Mirage 2000Ds. The modification include weapon system updates, the gun pod and Mica missiles of the aircraft version of the Mirage 2000 that is especially adapted for ground attack.
The Mirage 2000D entered service in 1993 and is the “less terrifying” sister of the Mirage 2000N designed for nuclear strike. In fact, the aircraft are basically the same with the Delta used for long-range strikes with conventional Apache, Scalp and Mica missiles. The first flight of the 2000D was in 1991, roughly 5 years after the 2000N. Lacking an on-board gun, has proven to be a miss during recent combat operations in Afghanistan, Libya (Operations Harmattan / Unified Protector) and Central Africa / Mali (Serval, now Barkhane) and combating the so-called Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria (ISIS / Daesh(.
Mirage 2000D operations
During the operations of the last few years the Mirage 2000Ds often flew with just a pair of 500 lbs GBU-12 laser-guided or GBU-49 gps-/laser-guided bombs and two external fuel tanks. Adding the gun pod means the French Air Force wants to add a more effective close-air support to the Mirage 2000D – something that the aircraft was not designed to do but may work well in low-threat environments. The new modifications are believed to have been mostly “inspired” by the recent deployments against ISIS / Daesh.
The newest French multi-role fighters Dassault Rafale B (two-seat) and C (single-seat) initially were introduced with air-to-air capabilities (F1) only. The latest Dassault Rafale B/C have been delivered in F3 standard (fully multi-role, including nuclear strike) but reportedly not all Rafale F1s have been fully upgraded yet to F3.
Mirage 2000D bases
French Air Force Mirage 2000Ds fly from BA133 Nancy/Ochey (France), BA188 Djibouti/Ambouli (East Africa) plus a pair normally deployed to Niamey/Diori Hamani in Niger in support of Operation Barkhane.
Cash-low Argentina is so desperately seeking new fighter jets, that it is looking to put budget priced French fighter jets from the 1970s back in the air.
The defence minister of the Latin-American nation recently paid a visit to France, trying to have Paris agree to an affordable price tag for 12 Dassault-made fighter jets retired by the French Air Force (Armée de l’Air). Buenos Aires is looking for six Mirage F1s plus six Mirage 2000s, or a dozen of either one of the types. A 2013 deal with Spain seems to have hit the sand barrier somewhere.
FAM IA 58 Pucará
To Argentina’s main conservative daily newspaper, La Nacion, Mr. Julio Martinez also said he is hoping that France would like to provide new engines so that the Argentine Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Argentina) is able to bring 20 IA 58 Pucará ground attack and counter-insurgency aircraft back into the sky. Fábrica Militar de Aviones (FAM) produced 110 of these two-engine propeller aircraft between 1976 and 1986, with the type still operational in both Argentine and Uruguay.
Despite its known good operational status and relatively low cost for flight hours and maintenance, Buenos Aires is said not to seek purchase of the US-made Lockheed Martin F-16 that is flown – among others – by neighbouring Chile. An official reason for not buying the F-16 other that “not in the interest of the nation” has not been given. For some time even a wild story circulated that frustrated policy makers in the Argentinian capital were looking for a Russian bomber solution.
The Fuerza Aérea Argentina has currently no fighter jets on strenght, after the 22 remaining McDonnell Douglas A-4AR Fightinghawks and three (O)A-4ARs were grounded at Villa Reynolds Airbase in January 2016 because of the lack of spare parts and other airworthiness issues. Earlier the service decommissioned its Dassault Mirage III and IAI Fingers / AMD M5 Dagger units at Tandil Airbase. That leaves the nation with only 32 IA 58 Pucarás on frontline duty, of which many are down for maintenance.
The about two dozen FMA IA 63 Pampas (35 ordered) are not suited for combat, and the 14 remaining Embraer EMB-312 Tucanos can only be used for limited ground support and counter-insurgency operations.
The combat aircraft and attack helicopters of the Arab coalition fighting Houthi forces in Yemen are facing a new threat. Shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles.
Although uncertain how many of these MANPADS the Houthi soldiers have, the recent loss of a United Arab Emirates Air Force Mirage 2000-9 shows that close-air support is getting more tricky.
Downed the UAE jet
What exactly downed the French-made UAE jet with the loss of both crew is now a big question. The official statement of the Ministry of Defence in Abu Dhabi is that the aircraft had a technical malfunction and crashed into a mountain. Other sources claim that it was shot down. The latter is now supported by a recent news story in the normally well-informed British newspaper The Independent.
“SA-7 took down the jet”
According to claims made public by The Independent a Soviet-made 9K32 Strela-2 – popular known in NATO countries as SA-7 Grail – heat-seeking missile took down the jet, while the plane was flying low-level fly-by, possibly using its on-board gun against enemy positions.
Until recently Houthi rebels and their allies (sometimes described as Al-Quada on the Arab Peninsula or AQAP) are known to have deployed anti-aircraft guns against Arab coalition combat aircraft, but if true the deployment of the MANPADS is a new chapter in the air-to-ground operations in the war struck Southwest Asian country. So far at least four fast jets and at least one Saudi Arabian AH-64 Apache helicopter have been lost on the Arab coalition side in the recent Yemen war.
The French Air Force (Armée de l’Air) fleet of Dassault Mirage 2000D aircraft will undergo a Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU), starting at the end of this year. This was stated in the 2016 French Finance Bill, which was officially presented to the French financial press on 30 September. The MLU will extend the Mirage 2000D’s operational service life until 2030.
Of the current fleet of 63 operational aircraft, 55 will be renovated and modernized. This modernization will focus on improving the air-to-ground capability, but also the ability to take self-protection missiles MICA IR. According to Paris, the upgrade programm starts at the end of this year, while hand over of the first modernized aircraft to the French Air Force will start from 2019.
The first Mirage 2000D entered service 1993. Overseas operations by the French Air Force put the Mirage 2000D fleet under quite some stress. Therefore, in April the Mirage 2000D in Jordan, as part of Operation Chammal, was relieved by the Mirage 2000N.