The Ukrainian Air Force (UAF) has revived its call to acquire the French Mirage-2000D fighters, as the country is set to operate its first set of F-16 jets to be used against Russia.
This was stated by UAF head Mykola Oleshchuk, who believes the ground attack variant of the famous fighter and the A-10 Warthog to be more suitable to operate with its existing fleet of Soviet-era jets.
UAF presently operates MiG-29s, Su-27s, the swing-wing Su-24M Fencer fighter-bomber, and Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack jet that, Oleshchuk said on his Telegram channel, would be gradually “replaced” by Western-origin aircraft.
Oleshchuk’s description of the aircraft’s purpose also revealed the war’s land-centricity for Russia and Ukraine, where the latter desires to push back and recapture Russian-held territory in the northeast, east, and south.
Besides being an air dominance fighter, the Mirage-2000 has a renowned ground attack and reconnaissance-strike capability. India used the aircraft both in the 1999 Kargil War and the February 2019 strike on the Balakote terror training camp in Pakistan.
The delta-wing fighter can operate laser-guided bombs with LITENING targeting pods and the same SCALP-EG/Storm Shadow missile that UAF’s Su-24s fire. The French Air Force uses roughly 66 Mirage-2000D models, slated to be replaced by the Dassault Rafale jets.
Ukraine has long been persuading Germany to send the KEPD Taurus air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). Assuming the weapon is integrated with the Mirage-2000D, it will give the UAF tremendous strategic ground strike capability.
Mirage-2000Ds, A-10s With F-16, Soviet Jets’
Quoting Oleshchuk, Le Point said while he ensured the arrival of the F-16 “remains a priority,” he is considering the “integration of other aircraft, like the French Mirage 2000 D or the American A-10 Thunderbolt II.”
These fighters should provide “better ground support” for Ukrainian troops. “Last July, a coalition bringing together eleven countries was created. The objective was to train Ukrainian pilots and mechanics on the F-16 combat aircraft before delivering it to them. Thus, the Netherlands and Denmark must send around sixty by the start of 2024 to balance the scales in the Ukrainian sky,” Oleshchuk said on Telegram.
This was followed by President Volodymyr Zelensky’s September 2023 statement about an “important agreement” on pilot training between Ukraine and France, which observers inferred involved the Mirage-2000D.
“Today’s priority is mastery of the F-16, for which Ukrainian pilots are already being retrained. However, our experts are studying other possibilities to increase the combat potential of aviation as a whole,” Oleshchuk stressed.
“Of course, we will not be able to abandon the operation of Soviet planes immediately. Thus, alongside the F-16, the MiG-29 will operate in the sky, it is possible that the combat capabilities of the Su-24M bombers will be enhanced by the Mirage 2000, and the Su-25 attack aircraft by the A-10 Thunderbolt II,” he added.
The A-10 is a fully dedicated ground attack jet with heavy armor and a signature 30-mm Gatling gun in its nose for anti-armor firing devoted entirely to fire support for ground troops.
After the failure of the Ukrainian counter-offensive in June, American officers stressed the importance of air support in breaking through a fortified front. The Mirage-2000D and A-10s began to be considered following this assessment.
Ukraine Wants Air Power For Land War
Oleshchuk also hinted at an ongoing internal debate within the Ukrainian military brass about what weapons are needed to achieve credible success against Russia.
“To make things clear, I fully support the position of the commander of the Ground Forces, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrsky, regarding strengthening the capabilities of strike aviation to ensure the offensive and defensive actions of the Defense Forces.”
While the F-16s have long been assessed to be unable to make a massive strategic impact on the front, a combination of other advanced Western fighters can reverse some of Russia’s territorial gains. These reversals can then be used as leverage for future negotiations with Russia if the war is to be concluded through diplomatic means.
However, the complexity of training, operating, and maintaining Western fighters for a traditionally Soviet-styled air force will continue to dog the fighter’s operations and create logistical difficulties. An emerging counterargument is that the war is showing signs of heading into another year, which allows NATO and Ukraine to address the techno-logistical issues long-term.