A Brief History
On March 10, 1978, the Dassault Mirage 2000 fighter bomber made its first flight. This lightweight, multi-role, single engine jet fighter would go on to serve as the backbone of the French Air Force fighters and also with 8 other countries.
Produced from 1978 to 2007, just over 600 of these jets were built at a cost of about $23 million each. The Mirage 2000 is an evolutionary heir to the Mirage III, and the basis for development of the larger, heavier, twin engine Mirage 4000. The Mirage 2000 is more or less the French equivalent of the US F-16 Falcon. When the French opted out of the development of the so called “Eurofighter” that turned into the Panavia Tornado, the Mirage 2000 was the result.
The Mirage 2000 has a potent gun armament of 2 X 30mm cannons with 125 rounds each, capable of a variable cyclic rate of fire from 1200 to 1800 rounds per minute. A hit from even one of these cannon shells may be enough to take down another airplane. Other ordnance is loaded externally under the distinctive delta shaped (triangular) wing and the fuselage on 9 separate pylons, up to a highly creditable 14,000 pounds (a lot for a single engine fighter). Mixed loads of bombs, air to ground rockets and missiles, and air to air missiles can be carried. Both radar guided and infrared seeking air to air missiles can be loaded (including the US designed Sidewinder). Ordnance delivery includes guided “smart” weapons, and even nuclear bombs (India and France). The Mirage 2000 has proven to be a capable and reliable fighter in actual operations in India, the Balkans, and the Middle East.
Upgrades over the years have kept the Mirage 2000 relevant and capable of an increasing number of roles. A fast jet with a top speed of Mach 2.2, the Mirage has a ceiling of 59,000 feet and a combat range of nearly 1000 miles, with a ferry range double that. The follow on/replacement fighter for the Mirage 2000 has been the Dassault Rafale, in service since 2001, though replacement has been slow with only 154 of the Rafale built so far (at the eye watering price of $75 million each). The Rafale does not seem more impressive when raw performance numbers are compared to the Mirage 2000, but it adds the anti-ship capability and it suitable for aircraft carrier operations. (The Rafale has seen combat in Afghanistan.) About 129 Mirage 2000’s remain in active service with the French Air Force (and 108 Rafale).
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For more information, please see….
List, Friedrich. French Deltas Airdoc Post WW II Combat Aircraft Series No. 11 the Dassault Mirage 2000 Over Europe Part 1. Airdoc – Aircraft Documentations, 2005.