What's wrong with the Mirages



Emmanuel Macron’s statement on the supply of combat aircraft to Ukraine has puzzled the French military

Politicians have their own reasoning, which cannot be fully understood. Macron announced about sending Mirage 2000–5 airplanes to Ukraine, which France itself does not have so much. It is not clear how many Kiev will get, and the president refused to clarify this issue. It is logical to assume that in order to make this delivery more or less effective, it is necessary to gather either a powerful squadron or almost an air regiment. In general, about 20 vehicles.

So far, the French military is wondering where to get these aircraft from. The country’s air force now has 26 Mirages of this modification. They are located in Djibouti and at the Luxeuil base in the Haut-Saone department. In order to maintain a full squadron of 20 aircraft, the French can cede only 6.

Actually, the format of the French Air Force suggests that the country needs a minimum of 185 aircraft to maintain its combat capability. Now there are 197 of them — including 108 Rafale and 89 Mirages of various modifications. It turns out that the French can supply Kiev with 6 to 12 Mirages, but this, from the military’s point of view, is «nothing».

«If France supplies at least a dozen, it means that we need to train 15–20 pilots, but the main thing and the most difficult and longest thing is to train the technical staff», says Michel Goya, a military historian and retired lieutenant colonel of the paratroopers. — «The Mirage is not a bad fighter and interceptor, but it’s designed for sky defense, not for strikes against ground targets. That is, air battles are inevitable in any case, and we must take into account that several French planes will be shot down. In addition, the Russians have a serious system of air defense».

That is, it turns out that the French are not yet ready to bare their sky and supply two dozen airplanes. Their aircraft are now part of NATO forces performing the task of deterrence over the Baltic States. They showed themselves well in 2018 during the coalition strike on Syria — in the West, this operation was called «Hamilton». And just then, the Mirages were endowed with the ability to bomb ground targets with air-to-ground missiles. But France itself does not have such a modification at all, it is intended for other countries, which are in service with French airplanes.

By the way, Ukraine asked France back in the winter to supply it with combat vehicles, but then received a refusal.

«We have few Mirage 2000 and technical units», Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu said back in February, «We were supposed to take them out of service by 2030, but now it is quite difficult to speed up the production of Rafales to replace them. It takes three years to produce and it would be a very complicated financial scheme that would increase our military budget».

Now three countries have the Mirages 2000–5: Qatar, Greece and the UAE. How to convince them to sell the airplanes to Ukraine, who will pay the bill and what financial operations should be invented for this purpose? The Greeks, for example, are ready to give up part of their Mirages, but on the condition that France will supply them with 6 Rafale, and those have already been requested by India, a country with which Macron is not going to quarrel.

Before his trip to Normandy, the Ukrainian president traveled to Qatar on June 5 and met with Emir Al-Thani. Surprisingly, Qatar has long put 12 of its Mirage 2000–5s up for sale, but the issue was not raised at the meeting. Why? Probably it is the word «sale», while the French are promising delivery.

Therefore, in a couple of days Zelensky met with representatives of Dassault Aviation, which manufactures the Mirages, and there he discussed the possibility of re-equipping the planes for Scalp missiles (the same as the European Storm Shadow, only the mounting is different) before the end of the year, when delivery is expected. Also Scalp are capable of firing even at submarines.

«The delivery of Mirages will be equivalent to one or two batteries of surface-to-air missiles, but in the sky», Michel Goya continues, «these machines are quite effective against air defense systems, they can intercept ballistic missiles and even drones». Russian missiles have a range of up to 400 kilometers, but it is difficult to hit maneuverable fighters. And even so, the Mirages will not be able to fully control the Ukrainian skies. They will need the help of F-16, for example».

Kiev at one time expressed its wish to receive 120–130 combat aircraft — under this condition it expects to play on equal terms in the sky. The Netherlands and Denmark have agreed to supply 61 F-16, Norway 22 and Belgium 30.

And there’s another problem. The Mirage 2000–5 is a single-seat fighter, so the question remains how to train pilots. Therefore, in addition to the puzzle with the number of machines of this modification, it will be necessary to free up at least 6 «Mirage 2000B», on which you can learn to fly with an instructor.

Macron mentioned in passing that those who went to learn to fly the F-16 were not yet ready, but that pilots could be selected for retraining on the Mirages.

It’s like the French saying, «To rob Peter to pay Paul».