Not Just F-16s: France Confirms Ukraine Will Receive Mirage 2000 Fighters as Aid

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced on June 6 that  his country would supply Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and provide training to utilise the aircraft. “Tomorrow we will launch a new cooperation and announce the transfer of Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets to Ukraine, made by French manufacturer Dassault, and train their Ukrainian pilots in France,” the president stated, following over a year of speculation that Paris could take such steps. The Ukrainian Air Force has received  several dozen MiG-29 fighters since the escalation of hostilities with Russia in February 2022, with these delivered from former Warsaw Pact states which had acquired them from the Soviet Union during the 1980s. With the MiG-29 fleet heavy depleted by attrition, the country is set to receive 85 F-16s beginning in the coming months which will be delivered by Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway, after the United States provided permission for these aircraft to be transferred. It is expected that Mirage 2000s could allow Ukraine to form several further additional squadrons. 

The Mirage 2000 first entered service in 1983 and represented France’s first from the fourth generation, with its single engine lightweight design being equivalent to that of the F-16 which had joined the U.S. Air Force five years prior. The French aircraft was considered much less capable than the F-16 and MiG-29 during the Cold War particularly in terms of its air to air capabilities, and was outperformed significantly by both on export markets. The F-16 was less costly and used a significantly more powerful engine which resulted in a superior overall flight performance, while integrating a much wider range of upgrades and weapons types in the years following its service entry. Issues with the Mirage 2000 would become more clear as the class saw a longer service life, with the Taiwan-based Republic of China Air Force which operates both classes set to retire the Mirage 2000s decades before its F-16s are retired despite the two classes having been acquired simultaneously. A key reason for this was the French jet’s very high crash rate with 12 percent of its fleet lost to accidents. Problems with the airframe also significantly raised operational costs to several times those of the F-16, which made retirement of the Mirage 2000 a matter of some urgency for Taipei. It remains uncertain whether France will seek to equip Mirage 2000s being donated to Ukraine with modern munitions, such as SCALP cruise missiles, much as F-16s are expected to be modified to integrate a range of new missile types before arriving in the Ukrainian theatre. 

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