The Dassault Mirage 2000 formed a potent interceptor and strike component of the French Air Force for the last three decades. She has since proven a capable performer under extreme combat conditions and has seen actions across Europe, the Middle East and - more recently - in North Africa as a part of the NATO contingent enforcing the "No-Fly Zone" over Libya as a result of the February 2011 rebellion uprising. Despite the aircraft currently being replaced by the much more advanced Dassault Rafale multi-role fighter, the Dassault Mirage 2000 still plays a role in operations of the French Air Force today - and the air forces of other countries around the world.
The French Dassault Aviation concern made for itself a considerable name during the Cold War. The firm was founded in 1930 and headquartered out of Paris, France. While World War 2 in Europe disrupted much of its early potential, the firm regrouped during the formative rebuilding years in France. After the war, the concern generated some of the finest jet-powered French platforms which went on to see considerable success in the overseas market. In 1979, the French government bought Dassault stock shares and went on to own upwards of 46% of the company. Today, the firm employs over 12,400 personnel.
Some of the key developments of Dassault during this critical time became the Dassault Ouragan of 1949. The Ouragan was notable for it being the first indigenous jet-powered combat fighter after the end of World War 2. Up to then, the country had relied solely on foreign purchases of jet-powered aircraft for its inventory. The Dassault Mystere IV of 1952 proved another very successful design with its basic appearance and jet-powered nature. The first "true" success came in the form of the Dassault Mirage III series, a sleek, streamlined mount powered by a single engine placement utilizing a delta-wing configuration with a single vertical tail fin. The aircraft appeared in 1956 and proved an excellent air-to-air and air-to-ground platform, particularly in Israeli hands during the Six Day War of 1967. The Dassault Mirage F.1 was the next logical evolution in the series but moved away from the delta-wing planform. instead, mounting swept wings at the shoulder. This type, like the Mirage III before it, proved another Dassault success and was a true multi-role jet fighter in every sense of the word. Export numbers proved strong.
Birth of the Mirage 2000
By this time, work had begun on other more modern projects to succeed initial offerings. Origins of the Mirage 2000 itself lay in an original joint British-French program entitled "Anglo-French Variable Geometry" (AFVG) with the goal of producing a "swing-wing" multi-role aircraft platform. The program began in 1965 but the French retreated from the program after just a short two years of involvement, leading to the project's formal cancellation. Regardless, the British later teamed up with the West Germans and Italians and ultimately created the successful Panavia Tornado swing-wing multi-role strike fighter out of the "Multi-Role Combat Aircraft" (MRCA) program that ensued. In the meantime, Dassault engineers continued work on several products to fulfill an evolving French government requirement that was entitled "Avion de Combat Futur" (ACF - Future Combat Aircraft) - or "Super Mirage". The early approach, featuring two SNECMA M53-3 turbofan engines, was regarded as too large and costly for the need, resulting in the project's cancellation by the French government in 1975. A new requirement in 1976 sought a cost effective and lightweight solution built around a single SNECMA engine and smaller overall scale. The new aircraft design direction became known as the "Mirage 2000".
Mirage 2000 Walk-Around
Externally, the Mirage 2000 shared the same aerodynamic profile as that of the Mirage III before it. Dassault engineers sought to iron out the low-level handling issues and range limitations of its predecessor by the implementation of a delta-wing configuration and a computerized fly-by-wire control network that would assist the airframe in remaining stable when aerodynamic laws said otherwise - the Mirage 2000 was Dassault's first aircraft to utilize such technology. The type would also introduce HOTAS (Hands-On Throttle and Stick) control, HUD (Heads-Up Display) and CRT display screens in the cockpit of French fighter aircraft. A Thomson-CSF RDM multi-mode mission radar would be fitted under the nose cone to help with target tracking and engagement. The Mirage 2000 would be primarily categorized as an interceptor but with strike capabilities being an added forte and power would come from a single SNECMA M53-5 afterburning turbofan engine of 19,800lb thrust. The aircraft frame would be both thin and light, resulting in the agile system the French government sought. French authorities approved of the design on December 18th, 1975 with the intention of replacing the aging Mirage F.1 series.
The Mirage 2000 addressed two key concerns of previous Mirage forms. The delta-wing planform allowed for greater internal fuel loads which directly increased operational ranges and it also allowed for considerably more in the way of ordnance carriage. Conversely, such an arrangement also led to inherently poor performance, instability and inadequate agility which is why the digital fly-by-wire proved essential to her design success. The single SNECMA powerplant was aspirated by a split intake duct system beginning at either side of the single-seat cockpit. To maintain a streamlined form in profile, the cockpit contoured directly into the fuselage spine. The nose cone was very sharp in appearance and the vertical tail fin was fitted well-aft of amidships, this over the large circular exhaust ring at the rear of the SNECMA powerplant. Since the aircraft used the delta-wing planform, no horizontal tail planes were needed at the rear of the design. The undercarriage was conventionally tricycle in nature and fully retractable. An in-flight refueling probe was permanently set to the right of the cockpit front along the forward fuselage.
Mirage 2000 Variants
Five prototypes were eventually produced and the first one became airborne over Istres on March 10th, 1978. Early evaluations were highly promising and proved the Mirage 2000 concept utterly sound, capable of exceeding previous Mirage offerings and then some. Serial production was secured and the first production Mirage 2000 became the "Mirage 2000C" ("C" for "Chasseur", meaning "Fighter") single-seat interceptor series. The aircraft first flew on November 20th, 1982 and the French Air Force accepted deliveries of some 124 aircraft the following year with her initial squadron being activated in 1984. Initially, the Mirage 2000C fitted the multi-mode Thompson-CSF RDM / RDI pulse Doppler radar system in the nose, this later giving way to the more advanced Thales RDY radar allowed for tracking of up to 24 individual targets with "track while scan" focused on eight of these threats.
The Mirage 2000C was powered by the SNECMA M53-P2 afterburning turbofan engine delivering up to 21,400lb of thrust on reheat (afterburner), and 14,500lb on standard thrust. Top speed was listed at Mach 2.2 (over 1,500 miles per hour) with a range of 963 miles on internal fuel and when equipped with a pair of external drop tanks. Its service ceiling was approximately 60,000 feet with an impressive rate-of-climb nearing 56,000 feet-per-minute.
As standard armament, the Mirage 2000C fielded a pair of 30mm DEFA internal cannons with 125 rounds per gun system. This could also be supplemented by the carrying of similar gun pods under the wings or fuselage if required. There were a total of nine under-wing and under-fuselage hardpoints that could yield external provisions of up to 13,900lb in combined weight - this made up of fuel stores as well as munitions. The Mirage 2000 was cleared for the use of guided-missile weaponry, "point-and-shoot" rocket pods and conventional drop bombs as needed. Therefore, she could be utilized as an air-to-air deterrent, air-to-surface attack craft or anti-ship interceptor. Special ordnance arrangements could see her field nuclear payloads, runway denial weapons and cluster bombs to suit mission requirements.
Despite its designation, the two-seat Mirage 2000B trainer series actually followed the Mirage 2000C model into service. First flight was recorded in October of 1980 and 30 airframes were delivered to the French Air Force. Beyond it fitting a second pilot, the fuselage of this version was slightly lengthened over that of the single-seat Mirage 2000C to make room for the instructor's cockpit at the loss of some internal volume. The aircraft fielded dual controls for its very defined training purpose.
The Mirage 2000N was a nuclear-capable version of the Mirage 2000 series, first flying in February of 1983. Deliveries of 75 aircraft (based on the two-seat Mirage 2000B model) began in 1987 and culminated in operational status achieved in 1988. Such aircraft proved critical in keeping the Soviet Union at bay and the type formally replaced the Mirage IIIE nuclear strike variant. The airframe was slightly modified for the low-level, high-speed penetration role that was expected of nuclear-capable jet fighters of this era. The Mirage 2000D arrived (in 1993) as a similar two-seat variant though optimized for the low-level, all-weather strike role in day or night conditions thanks to its terrain following navigation system. The type was born out of the refined Mirage 2000N nuclear-capable version and first flight was achieved in February of 1991. At least 86 aircraft of this type were ultimately delivered to the awaiting French Air Force. A dedicated reconnaissance version existed as the Mirage 2000R with air-to-air capabilities intact.
The Mirage 2000 as an Export Product
Like other Mirage platforms before it, the Mirage 2000 was the subject of various quantitative export orders. As such, export-minded designs were generated by Dassault to fit world demand for a high-performance fighter with strike capabilities. This became the Mirage 2000E, a single-seat multi-role variant based on the original Mirage 2000C interceptor. The type was fitted with RDM+ radar and the SNECMA M53-P2 series turbofan engine. The Mirage 2000E was joined by its two-seat trainer counterpart known as the Mirage 2000ED. Egypt purchased the export Mirage 2000M fighter and Mirage 2000BM trainer. India procured the aircraft as the Mirage 2000H and dubbed it the "Vajra" or "Thunderstreak" in her inventory - upgrades have kept these mounts continually viable. Peru knew their Mirage 2000s as the Mirage 2000P and owned twelve of the type, two of these being trainers. Taiwan later purchased both fighters and trainers from the French. Other operators have included Brazil, Greece, the UAE and Qatar. France naturally owns the largest contingent of Mirage 2000s numbering 315 aircraft. This is followed in quantity by the 68 fielded by the UAE, the 60 utilized by Taiwan, the 50 or so by India and 20 by Egypt. Qatar, Peru and Brazil each maintain only a dozen Mirage 2000s in their stables.
Ultimate Mirage 2000
Additional design work by Dassault ultimately led to the development of the much improved and modernized Mirage 2000-5 multi-role series available in two distinct marks (Mark I and Mark II) as a single- or two-seater beginning in 1997. The aircraft was now fitted with an uprated engine with more inherent power, five CRT screens in the cockpit for improved mission management and a Thales RDY with Matra Mica air-to-air missile compatibility. Other updates have included the Thales Nahar FLIR navigation system, helmet-mounted sights, laser pods for self-target designation of guided munitions and autopilot systems with terrain following capabilities. The multi-mode mission radar supplies multi-target tracking and engagement as well as a "look down, shoot down" operation.
The Dassault Mirage 4000 was a "one-off" fighter/strike platform prototype developed from the Mirage 2000 and first flew on March 9th, 1979 to fulfill a Saudi air need. This program was eventually cancelled after the Saudis elected to procure the American McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle instead.
At least 600 Mirage 2000 aircraft have been produced to date at a cost of 23 million USD per aircraft.
Mirage 2000 Combat Participation
The Mirage 2000 was fielded in combat during the 1991 Gulf War against the forces of Saddam Hussein. Air superiority was quickly reached and allowed a major ground campaign to follow. Her resume was further extended in the decade due to her involvement in the Bosnian / Kosovo war of the late 1990s. As part of Operation Enduring Freedom following the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, French Mirage 2000 aircraft were put into action once again, attacking ground-based Taliban and Al Qaeda strongholds (the enemy lacked much in the way of air power). More recently, the Mirage 2000 of the French Air Force has been seen over the skies of Libya attempting to help contain the army of Libyan leader Al-Gaddafi against the ongoing rebellion with oil production at stake. Mirage 2000s are primarily being called for use to protect the skies in the NATO mandated "No-Fly Zone".
2013 - French Air Force Mirage 2000D aircraft have undertaken strike missions against terrorist positions in the Sahel region of Africa.
August 2016 - India has test flown an upgraded version of its Mirage 2000 model as part of a major upgrade / modernization of its fleet. It is a two-seat form and features upgrades to the weapons suite, onboard sensors and the Electronic Warfare (EW) package. Assistance was had from Thales and Dassault.
June 2017 - At Paris Air Show 2017, it was announced that French Mirage 2000 aircraft will be receiving a weapons upgrade that will include an all-new gun pod, Fire Control System (FCS) and MICA IR missile support.
November 2017 - The United Arab Emirates has revealed plans to upgrade its aging fleet of Mirage 2000 fighter-bombers (Mirage 2000-9) while it waits on the selection of a replacement.
November 2019 - The Mirage 2000-9, an updated form of the Mirage 2000-5 for the UAE, was showcased at Dubai Air Show 2019.
February 2020 - Lockheed Martin has beaten out Dassault to integrate its "Sniper" Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP) to UAE Mirage 2000 fighters.
September 2020 - Greece has announced plans to upgrade its aging stock of M2000 fighters along with ordering 18 Rafale multirole types in response to Turkish moves in the Mediterranean Theater. The M2000 will be brought up to the M2000-5 standard.
January 2021 - The French Air Force has taken delivery of its first upgraded M2000D airframes.
Status Active, In-Service
Production 611 Units
Dassault Aviation - France
Brazil (retired); Egypt; France; Greece; India; Peru; Qatar; Taiwan; United Arab Emirates
- Ground Attack
47.11 ft (14.36 m)
29.95 ft (9.13 m)
17.06 ft (5.2 m)
16,535 lb (7,500 kg)
37,479 lb (17,000 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Dassault Mirage 2000C production model)
1 x SNECMA M53-P2 afterburning turbofan engine developing 21,385 lb of thrust.
1,453 mph (2,338 kph; 1,262 kts)
54,035 feet (16,470 m; 10.23 miles)
1,150 miles (1,850 km; 999 nm)
56,000 ft/min (17,069 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Dassault Mirage 2000C production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
2 x 30mm DEFA internal revolver-type cannons under fuselage.
Mission-specific ordnance can include any of the following:
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