The Dassault Mirage 2000, a renowned French multirole jet fighter, emerged in the late 1970s as a lightweight replacement for the Mirage III within the French Air Force (Armée de l’air). Initially designed as a fighter, the Mirage 2000 evolved into a versatile multirole aircraft with various developed variants, leading to sales to multiple nations. The Mirage 2000’s lineage includes the Mirage 2000N and 2000D strike variants, the enhanced Mirage 2000-5, and several export adaptations, with a production exceeding 600 aircraft and service in nine nations.
The inaugural Mirage 2000C (C for chasseur, “fighter”) took flight on November 20, 1982, and deliveries to the French Air Force commenced in 1983. The initial 37 Mirage 2000Cs were equipped with the Thomson-CSF Radar Doppler Multifunction (RDM) and powered by the SNECMA M53-5 turbofan engine. Subsequent aircraft, starting with the 38th Mirage 2000C, featured an upgraded SNECMA M53-P2 turbofan engine. In 1987, the Radar Doppler à Impulsion (RDI) developed by Thales entered service for the Mirage 2000C. This radar significantly extended the range to about 150 km and integrated with Matra Super 530D missiles, offering substantial improvements over the older Super 530F. The RDI radar enhanced look-down/shoot-down capabilities, although it was primarily utilized for air-to-air missions rather than air-to-surface roles.
The Mirage 2000 employs retractable tricycle landing gear provided by Messier-Dowty, featuring twin nosewheels and a single wheel on each main gear. This landing gear configuration allows for the potential use of a runway tailhook or a fairing for a brake parachute beneath the tail, working in tandem with the landing gear’s carbon brakes to reduce landing distances. Additionally, a removable refueling probe can be attached in front of the cockpit, slightly offset to the right of center. The Mirage 2000 utilizes a fly-by-wire aircraft flight control system.
Available in both single-seat and twin-seat configurations, the Mirage 2000 is a multirole fighter. The pilot operates the aircraft using a center stick and left-hand throttles, both equipped with Hands On Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) controls. The pilot sits on a SEM MB Mk10 zero-zero ejection seat, a licensed-built version of the British Martin-Baker Mark 10.
The instrument panel of the Mirage 2000, particularly in the Mirage 2000 C variant, prominently features a Sextant VE-130 head-up display. This display provides critical data related to flight control, navigation, target engagement, and weapon firing. Below the head-up display is a centrally located radar screen.
For its powerplant, the Mirage 2000 is equipped with the SNECMA M53 afterburning turbofan, specifically developed for the Advanced Combat Fighter (ACF) program, making it available for the Mirage 2000 project. This single-shaft engine boasts a modular construction, offering a lightweight and straightforward design compared to British or American counterparts. The M53 comprises three low-pressure compressor stages, five high-pressure stages, and two turbine stages.
Armament on the Mirage 2000 includes built-in twin DEFA 554 autocannon (now GIAT 30–550 F4), featuring 30 mm revolver-type cannons with 125 rounds each. These cannons offer selectable fire rates of 1,200 or 1,800 rounds per minute, enhancing the aircraft’s firepower capabilities.
Variants and Operations:
The Mirage 2000-5 represents a significant leap forward from its predecessors, featuring a comprehensive upgrade in electronic systems, sensors, and cockpit technology to enhance its combat capabilities and reduce pilot workload. The focal point of the Mirage 2000-5’s modernization is the Thomson-CSF RDY (radar Doppler multitarget) with look-down/shoot-down capability. This multifunction radar excels in air-to-ground, air-to-air, and air-to-sea operations. In the air-to-ground mode, the RDY offers navigation and attack functions, providing the Mirage 2000-5 with deep-strike and close-support capabilities.
The RDY radar is noteworthy for its ability to automatically lock onto multiple targets upon first contact, detecting flying targets as low as 60 meters (200 feet). With the introduction of this advanced radar, the aircraft can employ the MICA missile, allowing for the simultaneous firing of up to six missiles at different targets.
To manage the increased offensive capabilities, the Mirage 2000-5 incorporates a multidisplay glass cockpit, a development inspired by the Rafale. The aircraft is equipped with the ICMS Mk2 countermeasures suite, featuring three radar detectors and an infrared sensor connected to active jammers and chaff/flare dispensers.
The Mirage 2000-5 Mk 2 further enhances its offensive systems with the addition of a datalink for targeting MICA EM missiles, integration of the Damocles forward-looking infrared (FLIR) targeting pod, and the adoption of the Thales RDY-2 all-weather synthetic aperture radar with moving target indicator capability. These upgrades significantly improve the aircraft’s air-to-ground capabilities.
Avionics improvements include higher resolution color displays, an optional Topsight helmet-mounted display, and the integration of the modular data-processing unit designed for the Rafale. The aircraft also incorporates a new Thales Totem 3000 inertial navigation system with ring laser gyroscope and GPS capability, providing enhanced accuracy, reliability, and shorter alignment time compared to its predecessor, the ULISS 52 navigation system. Additional upgrades feature an on-board oxygen generation system for the pilot and the inclusion of the ICMS 3 digital countermeasures suite.