France has unveiled plans to upgrade its fleet of Dassault Mirage 2000D strike aircraft.
A contract announcement by the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA), France’s defense procurement agency, reveals that a total of 55 Mirage 2000Ds will receive a mid-life upgrade that will keep them in service until after 2030.
The upgraded Mirage 2000Ds will receive a cannon for ground-attack work, provision for MBDA MICA air-to-air missiles in place of the previous Magic 2, and a new avionics suite.
A decision to prolong the service life of the Mirage 2000D was made by the Ministerial Investment Committee late last year. Keeping the 2000D in service means that the French Ministry of Defense will be able to maintain force levels outlined by the White Paper on Defense and National Security, which called for a total of 225 combat aircraft in service with the French Air Force and Navy.
Upgrade work will be undertaken by Dassault Aviation and the European missile house MBDA.
Back in September 2010, the French government announced that a previously planned mid-life update of the Mirage 2000D would be shelved for a number of years. This was the result of budget cuts in excess of €3 billion to be implemented in the next three years, in combination with an accelerated production tempo of the Rafale for the French Air Force.
The Mirage 2000D is currently a pure fighter-bomber but with the aid of the MLU would also have been an important part of the future fleet of multi-role fighter aircraft. Moreover, the retirement schedule of the Mirage 2000C and the F1CR was related to the much improved air-to-air capabilities expected to be brought in under the Mirage 2000D MLU program.
Apart from the greatly improved air-to-air capability, the Mirage 2000D modernization was to include replacement of obsolete components, improved air-ground capabilities and the integration of the Thales ASTAC ELINT pod. The mid-life update program concerned 77 aircraft and would have cost €10 million per jet.
Although the defense ministry was opposed to it, the Assemblée Nationale (French Parliament) designated €10 million for the integration of the ASTAC pod in order that the Mirage 2000D could assume the ELINT mission from the Mirage F1 from 2014. The ASTAC is a highly useful asset that allows the carrier platform to identify the order of battle of a hostile integrated air defense system.
Apart from a small squadron in Djibouti, EC 3/11 ‘Corse’, and rotations to Niamey in Niger under Operation ‘Barkhane’, the operational strength of the Mirage 2000D fleet currently comprises three squadrons each of 20 aircraft and all based at Nancy: EC 1/3 ‘Navarre’, EC 2/3 ‘Champagne’ and EC 3/3 ‘Ardennes’. Type conversion is the responsibility of Escadron de Transformation des Équipages Mirage 2000D (ETD) 4/3 ‘Argonne’.