Ukraine Eyes ‘D’ Variant Of Mirage 2000 Fighters As Russian Army Takes A Lead In The Warzone; Here’s Why

Ukraine desperately needs Mirage-2000 fighters to stop the advancing Russian army, which has regained an advantage in the warzone. Will Paris listen to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s urgent call for help? 

Ukraine recently made its fourth pitch for the French Mirage-2000 fighters. President Volodymyr Zelensky replied in the affirmative when asked if Kyiv was seeking the jets from Paris.

While he did not provide details, previous statements by Ukrainian defense officials and diplomats expressing the need for the jets and optimism about Paris’s response indicate an attempt to build pressure on France to supply bigger weapons.

In an interview with France’s LCI television channel, Zelensky said, “Yes, we are negotiating about fighters.” This was in response to a question from the presenter asking if France would provide Ukraine with Mirage-2000s.

The report also noted Ukraine’s dire military situation. It said that the Russian army seemed to have “regained the advantage” on the front, where Ukraine’s counter-offensive in mid-2023 “failed to move the positions.”

“Now well supplied with weapons and ammunition, the Russian military also has the advantage of controlling the skies, which allows them to carry out attacks deep into Ukrainian territory,” the report added.

Why Ukraine Needs Mirage-2000 ‘D’ Fighters

Kyiv’s need for fighters to launch aerial strikes on Russian ground positions and overturn many of the territorial losses is expected to give it better leverage during negotiations that may take place to conclude the war.

Kyiv is hoping for the precedent set by the US approval to send F-16 fighters after initial denial. F-16s donated by Denmark and the Netherlands are expected to reach Ukraine over the next few months.

Ukraine specifically wants the ‘D’ variant of the jet (Mirage-2000D). 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.

File Image: MIRAGE-2000

The French Air Force uses around 66 Mirage-2000D models, slated to be replaced by the Dassault Rafale jets. It is an all-weather strike aircraft equipped with corresponding radar, navigation, and electronic systems, aiding the pilot during flights with poor visibility and at low altitudes.

Ukraine has also been persuading Germany to send the KEPD Taurus air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). Assuming the weapon is integrated with the Mirage-2000D, it will provide the UAF with tremendous strategic ground strike capability.

The Ukrainian Air Force (UAF) presently operates MiG-29s, Su-27s, the swing-wing Su-24M Fencer fighter-bomber, and the Su-25 Frogfoot ground attack jet. UAF head Mykola Oleschuk had said in mid-January that the jet could provide “better ground support for Ukrainian troops.”

French officials have, however, mentioned the air defense-specific Mirage-2000C. France had around 120 Mirage-2000Cs that retired in 2022 to make way for the Dassault Rafale. The airframes are assessed to be in good working conditions, according to many Ukraine-affiliated Telegram groups.

The French Air Force is also upgrading 48 of the 86 Mirage-2000Ds to make them compatible with new munitions like the MICA medium-range air-to-air missile (AAM). This means the remaining Mirage-2000Ds that would be retired can be transferred to Ukraine. However, they cannot fire the MICA. The older Mirage-2000Cs can fire the MICA but cannot fire the SCALP-EG/Storm Shadow.

The version of Mirage will depend upon what Ukraine considers a priority: engage in aerial combat with Russian fighters or hit its ground targets in the occupied territories.

The report on LCI said that France had so far “ruled out a delivery of Mirage 2000D fighters.” That is because the “maintenance costs and pilot training required to last at least eight months” would be “too heavy.”

Sweden, however, said it was ready to “consider” supplying its Gripen fighters but “requires full membership in NATO.” This process has made “significant progress” after Hungary declared its “agreement for Sweden’s entry into the alliance.”

Earlier Statements By Ukrainian Officials

On February 16, the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Kirill Budanov, said that Kyiv hoped to receive Mirage 2000 fighter jets from Paris.

On February 23, Ukraine’s ambassador to France, Vadim Omelchenko, said in an interview with Le Point magazine that Paris and Kyiv were currently working to train Ukrainian pilots.

He urged not to believe rumors about possible deliveries of Mirage 2000D aircraft, saying that the Ukrainian Armed Forces had opted for American F-16s. He also added that Ukraine was still considering all available options for Western assistance.