French Defense Minister has confirmed discussions with the Ukrainian government about sending fighter jets, possibly the Mirage 2000-Cs, that were retired by the French Air and Space Force in June 2022.
On February 28, during a Senate hearing, France’s Minister of the Armed Forces, Sébastien Lecornu, was asked by French lawmakers about the issue of the supply of warplanes to Ukraine.
“There would be 12 Mirage 2000-Cs currently in storage, ready to be sold. Do you plan to sell them to Ukraine or train Ukrainian pilots?” asked Senator Philippe Folliot.
Senator Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam supported Folliot’s question with another specific question.
“Is it true that our Air Force is ready to train Ukrainian pilots in Warsaw? This is the information that was given to me. I would like to be able to verify it,” Garriaud-Maylam asked.
Lecornu responded that neither the dispatch of fighter planes to Ukraine nor the training of Ukrainian pilots is as urgent as supplying Ukraine with ammunition to sustain Kyiv’s war effort against Russia.
“There is urgency on the shells. The endurance capacity of the Ukrainians rests on the ammunition”, said Lecornu.
However, Lecornu recognized “that there are discussions with the Ukrainians on the planes and the formation.” “The President of the Republic has already said it; there is no taboo,” he said.
At the same time, Lecornu explained to the lawmakers that the difficulty in supplying warplanes to Ukraine is centered around issues relating to logistics, training, and mechanical maintenance capacity, “all this in time horizons which are not short term.”
French President Emmanuel Macron had said on January 30, during a press conference in The Hague, that “by definition, nothing is excluded,” while adding that Ukraine had not requested any fighter planes.
So, the latest remarks by Minister Lecornu would suggest that Ukraine has requested France to provide warplanes.
Mirage 2000-Cs For Ukraine?
Developed by Dassault Aviation, France had 106 Mirage 2000 fighter jets in service at the beginning of 2022, all of which would be replaced by advanced Rafale fighters by 2030.
The Mirage 2000, armed with R.550 Magic II missile, had once shot down a Turkish F-16D over the Aegean Sea near Chios island. Both sides, Greece and Turkey, have underplayed the incident, possibly to prevent the formidable reputation of US fighters.
On June 23, 2022, France retired the Dassault Mirage 2000-C aircraft, leaving only 66 Mirage 2000D ground attack variant aircraft and 26 Mirage 2000-5 interceptors in service.
During his press conference on January 30, Macron outlined parameters France uses to evaluate any requests for military equipment from Ukraine.
These criteria are: Will it be valuable and practical for the Ukrainian army? Does it pose the risk of escalation? Will supplying the military hardware weaken French military capabilities?
So, the retired Mirage 2000-C jets could be given to Ukraine, as that would not weaken French military capabilities.
As for the practicality of Mirage 2000-Cs for the Ukrainian Air Force, let us first discuss the aircraft’s capabilities and examine whether they are relevant to Ukraine’s operational needs in the ongoing conflict with Russia.
The Mirage 2000-Cs are armed with a pair of 1980s-era Magic II short-range heat-seeking air-to-air missiles and two internal 30mm cannons for air defense purposes. The Magic II can engage targets up to a range of 20 kilometers.
The aircraft also had a radar-guided Super 530D missile with a range of 40 kilometers, but it was decommissioned in 2012.
For ground attack purposes, the Mirage 2000-Cs can fire 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs. However, the aircraft lacks a targeting pod, a huge shortcoming compared to most Western fighter jets. This means that the GBU-12 must be cued onto its target by another manned aircraft, a ground unit, or a drone.
Also, with enough time and proper approvals, more weapons could be added to the Mirage 2000-C. However, lacking a targeting pod will be a significant operational disadvantage for the French aircraft.
In mid-December last year, a Ukrainian MiG-29 pilot who goes by the call sign Juice told The War Zone that the Ukrainian military is interested in shooting down Russian attack platforms above the frontlines and covering its ground forces.
As for the present, the Ukrainian military is using its Su-27 for air defense and MiG-29s as a multi-role platform, and Su-25 ground attack aircraft for close air support (CAS) missions. So, the Mirage 2000-C can fulfill almost all of these purposes, bolstering Ukraine’s air power.