After Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced he had struck a significant agreement with French President Emmanuel Macron on training Ukrainian pilots in France, speculation is rife that Paris could eventually announce the transfer of its Mirage 2000 fighter jets to the Ukrainian Air Force.
In a nighttime address, Zelensky said on September 3, “Our coalition of modern fighters is becoming stronger.” The Ukrainian President, however, stopped short of announcing a delivery schedule for the training on one of the most combat-hardened French fighter jets and did not elaborate on the type of training.
Soon after Zelensky announced, local Russian media and pro-Russian military bloggers speculated that the move might indicate the French readiness to provide Ukraine with Dassault Aviation Mirage-2000 fighter jets or at least increase military cooperation in the aviation sector.
So far, the specific details of this agreement have not been disclosed, but it can be assumed that training Ukrainian pilots in France will require time and resources. The decision, which was reached on a phone call between the two leaders, has given France entry into the international coalition to train Ukrainian pilots, who are currently looking at flying the pledged F-16s.
So far, three countries — Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway — have pledged their F-16 fighters to Ukraine after obtaining approval from the United States. However, countries that do not have F-16s, like the UK and Sweden, have also pledged to train Ukrainian pilots on their warplanes, but it is not sure how this will help them to fly the F-16s eventually.
⚡️Zelensky: France to train Ukrainian pilots on fighter jets.
France has joined the international coalition to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, President Volodymyr Zelensky said after a Sept. 3 phone call with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) September 4, 2023
France, too, has come in with its offer of training Ukrainian pilots on French fighter jets. The French Air Force currently operates Mirage-2000s and Rafales as its main fighters. Since Paris is unlikely to train Ukrainian pilots on Rafale, the Mirage-2000 has emerged as the only plausible option.
Although neither the Ukrainian nor the French President has hinted that Mirage-2000 will be transferred to Kyiv, social media was abuzz with discussions surrounding a potential transfer. The French foreign ministry’s statement also influenced this: it would reinforce its military support for Ukraine, notably strengthening air defense capabilities.
A Russian-language publication that has been extensively following the war reported that the specific details of this agreement have not been disclosed. Still, it can be assumed that training Ukrainian pilots in France will require time and resources. If France provides Ukraine with its combat aircraft, this could become a severe problem because such fighters can carry long-range missiles.
The Hints That Suggest Mirage-2000s Could Be Bound For Ukraine
This is not the first time that there have been speculations that French Mirage-2000s will be handed over to Kyiv. Last month, one set of reports cited local French social networks as abuzz with rumors that Paris had already started the transfer for their use as carriers of SCALP-EG cruise missiles.
The first official footage of the SCALP-EG missile being carried by the Ukrainian Su-24M was made public on August 6, 2023. Looking closely at the image, one can notice an intriguing stylization — a picture that combines the silhouettes of two aircraft: the Ukrainian Su-24M and the French Mirage 2000, writes Defense Express.
How about conspiracy theories?
Mirage 2000 🧵
1. What do you see painted on the Scalp EG missile? pic.twitter.com/gIsZkQr1ta
— Voices of the Army 🇺🇦🔊 (@SmartUACat) August 14, 2023
The French industrial conglomerate Safran’s press office, which specializes in producing aviation components, “threw” another intriguing signal into social media. One of their messages was accompanied by a picture of a Mirage-2000C variant with a SCALP-EG cruise missile underneath the fuselage.
This message caught the most attention because it is the Mirage-2000Ds that are carriers of such a cruise missile. The Mirage-2000C is typically an interceptor and will be retired from French Air Force service in the summer of 2022. It was noted that this could be a mere mistake by Safran.
However, combined with the announcement of the French training Ukrainian fighter pilots, the speculations have been fueled again. For instance, a netizen wrote on Platform X that “Zelensky said that he had reached a significant agreement on training Ukrainian pilots in France in a conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron. This means Ukraine will receive Dassault Mirage-2000 fighters.”
Earlier, during a press conference on January 30 in The Hague, French President Emmanuel Macron stated that “by definition, nothing is excluded,” adding that Ukraine has not requested any aircraft.
Experts predict that if Macron chooses to provide combat aircraft, France will send an older variant of the Mirage fighter jet, i.e., Mirage-2000C, to Ukraine, which the French Air and Space Force formally retired in June 2022. Developed by Dassault Aviation, France had 106 Mirage 2000 aircraft in service at the start of last year, all of which would be replaced by cutting-edge Rafale fighters by 2030.
— C Schmitz (@chrisschmitz) September 4, 2023
The retired Mirage-2000C jets could be given to Ukraine without compromising French military capabilities. Since France manufactures its aircraft, export authorization from a third party is not required, as was the case of F-16s, which has made the option very appealing for Kyiv since the outset.
The French-standard Mirage-2000C has several serious drawbacks, including lacking a radar-guided missile for longer-range engagements. The Magic II short-range heat-seeking air-to-air missile and two internal 30mm cannons were the main armament when the antiquated radar-guided Super 530D missile was retired in 2012.
However, the Mirage-2000C might still give Kyiv the potential to conduct ground attack operations. The Mirage-2000C has been updated to have multirole capabilities, with the ability to execute ground-attack missions using 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs.
More weapons could be installed in the Mirage-2000C with adequate time and the right permits, including the SCALP-EG. However, several modifications may be required to equip this aircraft variant with an advanced missile like the SCALP-EG.
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