According to a recent report by the French newspaper Le Figaro, France has been secretly training Ukrainian pilots on Dassault Mirage-2000 fighter jets for more than a month and a half.
The Mirage 2000 is a multirole fighter-bomber designed by Dassault Aviation that entered service in 1984. It can perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, as well as reconnaissance and nuclear strike roles. The French Air Force currently operates about 99 Mirage 2000s of various variants, while another 40 are in service with the French Navy.
The report claims that about 30 Ukrainian pilots have been undergoing accelerated training on Mirage-2000s at two French air bases: Mont-de-Marsan and Nancy. The decision to train these pilots was allegedly made before the visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Paris on February 8, 2023. The report also suggests that France could potentially deliver a dozen Mirage-2000s to Ukraine if a political decision is taken.
France has been one of the main supporters of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity since the outbreak of the war. It has provided military assistance to Ukraine in various forms, such as supplying Caesar self-propelled howitzers, AMX light armored vehicles, anti-tank missiles, radars and drones. It has also participated in joint exercises and training programs with Ukrainian forces.
However, France has not yet confirmed or denied the report by Le Figaro. French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu said in early March that France had not made any decisions on aircraft for Ukraine or pilot training but admitted that the topic was being discussed. He also said that France wanted to keep all options open and prioritize the most useful and fastest equipment for Ukraine.
Meanwhile, other Western countries have also expressed their willingness to help Ukraine modernize its air force. The United States has reportedly trained two Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighters in Arizona and may train more in the future. The United Kingdom announced in February that it would also provide training for Ukrainian pilots on Eurofighter Typhoon jets. Poland and Slovakia have agreed to donate some of their MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine as well.
The acquisition of new or used fighter jets from Western allies would be a significant boost for Ukraine’s air defense capabilities and deterrence posture against Russia’s aggression. However, it would also entail some challenges such as compatibility issues, maintenance costs and political risks.
Dassault Mirage 2000
The Mirage-2000 fighter jet is a versatile and agile aircraft that can perform a variety of roles, from air superiority to ground attack. It was developed by Dassault Aviation in France as a successor to the Mirage III, which had been in service since the 1960s. The Mirage-2000 first flew in 1978 and entered service with the French Air Force in 1984.
The Mirage-2000 has a single-engine design that reduces maintenance costs and increases reliability. It also has a delta wing configuration that gives it high maneuverability and low drag. The aircraft is equipped with a fly-by-wire system that enhances its stability and responsiveness. The Mirage-2000 can carry a range of weapons, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, bombs, rockets and cannons.
The Mirage-2000 has been exported to several countries around the world, such as India, Egypt, Greece and Taiwan. It has seen combat action in various conflicts, such as the Gulf War, the Kosovo War, the Afghanistan War and the Libya intervention. The Mirage-2000 has also participated in multinational exercises like Cobra Warrior 2023 with other NATO allies.
The Mirage-2000 is still in service today and has undergone several upgrades over the years. The latest version is the Mirage-2000-5 mk2, which features improved avionics, radar and weapons systems. The Mirage-2000 remains one of the most successful fighter jets of its generation.