Dassault Aviation Mirage 2000: “The French nuclear strike fighter.
Designed to succeed the Mirage F.1 in the front line, the Mirage 2000 made its initial flight in March 1978, with deliveries of production machines in 1983. The aircraft, which serves in several Air Force squadrons, is equipped with a high-performance radar, fly-by-wire controls and a variable-camber wing.
The French Air Force has ordered 70 Mirage 2000-N nuclear strike aircraft and 32 Mirage 2000-N-K2 attack aircraft. Both variants feature a reinforced airframe for low-level operations, an Antilope V terrain-following radar, a dual Uliss 52 inertial navigation platform and multi-function CRT displays. The Mirage 2000-N is armed with the ASMP standoff nuclear missile.
The Mirage 2000-N belongs to the CFAS, the French Strategic Air Forces Command, where it replaces the Mirage IV-P in its deterrence and nuclear strike mission. Organically, they belong to the 4th Fighter Wing. It is made up of the 1/4 Dauphiné and 2/4 Lafayette squadrons based in Luxeuil in the east of the country, and the 3/4 Limousin based in Istres-le-Tubé, a few kilometers from Marseille.
Directly derived from the Mirage 2000-N-K2, the Mirage 2000-D (D for Diversified) is an all-weather conventional attack version, day and night. Like its big brother, the 2000-D is based on the Mirage 2000-B conversion aircraft and therefore does not have an internal armament. The range of external payloads that this fighter can carry is vast, from the standard 227 kg smoothbore bomb to the Apache centerfire cruise missile, laser-guided bombs, anti-track bombs, and AS-30L precision missiles. Although the French Air Force has long since lost its anti-ship mission, which has been assigned to the modernized Super Etendard and the Rafale of the French Naval Aviation, the Mirage 2000-D is capable of firing AM-39 Exocet missiles. This capability has enabled the Mirage 2000-D to be sold for export to its only foreign customer, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, which acquired six Mirage 2000-Ds in 1993, in addition to the Mirage 2000-Cs it already owned.
Since the retirement of the Jaguar, the Mirage 2000-D has been the main ground attack aircraft in the French Air Force, although it is supported by the last few Mirage F1-CTs. As a transitional aircraft, it will perfectly bridge the gap between the latter and the F3 and F4 versions of the Dassault Rafale.
But the main version of the Mirage 2000 remains the Mirage 2000-C (C for Chasse), which is used for interception and air superiority. It is the Air Force’s standard fighter. It was produced in two different versions: RDM and RDI. The first is a multi-functional Doppler radar aircraft and the second is a pulse Doppler radar aircraft. Its standard armament revolves around its two 30mm DEFA guns and its Super 530D and Magic air-to-air missiles, both designed by Matra. To the 2000-C should be added its big brother, the Mirage 2000-B for training and transformation. Although it has no internal armament, it has the same external equipment as the 2000-C.
Although technologically very advanced, the Mirage 2000 has never managed to surpass its predecessors in terms of export sales. Mirage 2000s destined for foreign customers are designated Mirage 2000-E, E for Export. Indeed, its customers were limited to only a few nations: Abu Dhabi with 22 single-seat 2000-EADs, to which should be added a special all-weather reconnaissance version 2000-RAD designed at the request of this emirate, Brazil with twenty single-seat 2000EBs and four two-seat 2000-EBBs, Egypt with sixteen single-seat 2000-EMs, India with 42 single-seat 2000-EHs and seven two-seat 2000-ETHs, Peru with ten single-seat Mirage 2000-EPs, and Greece with 36 single-seat Mirage 2000-EGs. The Brazilian and Greek aircraft are strictly identical to the Armée de l’Air’s Mirage 2000-C.
In October 1990, Dassault Aviation flew the Mirage 2000-5 prototype, a hybrid aircraft featuring new technologies from the ACX program, the same one that led to the Rafale. The RDI radar was replaced by a multi-target RDY, and the weaponry was also revised. It allowed the carriage of new-generation Mica and Magic 2 air-to-air missiles. The French Air Force was the first customer of the aircraft, retrofitting some 30 of its 2000-Cs to Mirage 2000-5F standard. These aircraft were assigned to air defense from the Dijon Longvic base, home of the prestigious 2nd Fighter Wing.
Taiwan really got the aircraft off the ground in 1996 with an order for sixty aircraft, including 48 single-seaters. These aircraft replaced the old Lockheed F-104 Starfighters still in service, and helped to restore the balance with its Chinese neighbor. By 2009, Taiwan’s Mirage 2000-5s were the most modern fighter aircraft in service on the island state. The Mirage 2000-5 was also sold for export to Qatar, which acquired nine single-seat and three two-seat aircraft in late 1997. At the end of 2001, Greece ordered twenty Mirage 2000-5s, to which should be added the retrofit of half of its 2000-EGs. This order was placed in preparation for the country’s hosting of the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Abu Dhabi, already a customer of the 2000-E and 2000-D, is the originator of the most advanced version of the French delta, the Mirage 2000-9, a multi-mission aircraft derived from the 2000-5 and featuring new systems. In addition to the usual equipment and weapons, it can fire the American AGM-65 Maverick missile and the British ASRAAM air-to-air missile. In total, thirty Mirage 2000-9s were produced by Dassault.
The Mirage 2000-9 has not been an extraordinary success, partly because of the general decline in defense funding around the world following the collapse of the Soviet bloc. But it is mainly because of the almost total hegemony of its main competitor, the American F-16 Fighting Falcon. Notwithstanding this fact, the Mirage 2000 remains one of the best fighters of its generation, and one of the few aircraft that can outperform the best American or Russian fighters.
Certainly the last of the Mirage line of aircraft, the Mirage 2000 represented the pinnacle of what could be produced in the 1980s in terms of combat aircraft, and the Dassault teams have once again succeeded in making aeronautical history.
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