The Dassault Mirage 2000 & 4000

v1.0.2 / 01 dec 02 / greg goebel / public domain

* The delta-winged Dassault "Mirage III / 5" series of fighters were one of Europe's first operational supersonic combat aircraft, and proved popular in French and export service. Their success led Dassault to produce a next-generation fighter, the "Mirage 2000", with a similar configuration, though it was in fact an entirely new design. It would prove successful as well.

This document outlines the history of the Mirage 2000 series fighters, as well as of the one-off "Mirage 4000" heavy fighter.

[3] TWO-SEAT MIRAGE 2000B / 2000N / 2000D
[6] MIRAGE 4000


* The Mirage 2000 evolved from a series of Dassault design efforts performed from 1965 to 1975. The first in this series was a collaborative project known as the "Anglo-French Variable Geometry (AFVG)" swing-wing aircraft, begun in 1965. The collaboration was a fiasco, with the the French pulling out in 1967. The British stayed with the concept and formed another collaboration with the Germans and Italians, which eventually produced the Panavia "Tornado".

Dassault then worked on several new aircraft concepts evolved from their "Mirage G" variable-geometry experimental prototype, resulting in a sophisticated design with the designation "Avion de Combat Futur (ACF / Future Combat Aircraft)". The ACF prototype was almost complete when the French government cancelled it in December 1975. The ACF was simply too big and expensive. However, Dassault had been considering other fighter options in the meantime, partly because the export potential of the ACF was not very promising.

These alternatives were smaller, simpler, and cheaper than the ACF, and took the form of a number of "Mini-Mirage (Mimi)" concepts developed beginning in 1972 on a "back-burner" basis. These concepts congealed into an aircraft known at first as the "Super Mirage III", then the "Delta 1000", "Delta 2000", and finally "Super Mirage 2000".

When the ACF was cancelled, Dassault was able to immediately offer the Mirage 2000 as an alternative, and the French Defense Council accepted it. It wasn't exactly an even trade, since the ACF was a strike aircraft first and an interceptor second, while the Mirage 2000 was exactly the reverse. However, the Mirage 2000 was much more affordable.

There was another reason for Dassault to push the Mirage 2000. In 1975, four European nations selected the General Dynamics F-16 as their new first-line fighter, rejecting an uprated Mirage F1. Marcel Dassault was disgusted with the choice, feeling his company could build a better aircraft.

The new and powerful "SNECMA M-53" engine, which had been developed for the ACF, was available for the Mirage 2000, but radar development threatened to be a critical path. Despite such obstacles, Marcel Dassault felt that a prototype could be flying in a year and a half, with operational introduction in 1982. In fact, the program was delayed, with the first prototype flying on 10 March 1978, the first production example flying on 20 November 1982, and operational service finally attained in 1984. However, by the standards of defense programs that was not all that big a schedule slip.

* Using the delta wing configuration seemed to many like a backward step. The company had used that configuration on the Mirage III and 5, but abandoned it for the Mirage F1. A delta wing tends to be a good choice in terms of high-speed flight characteristics, simplicity of aircraft construction, relatively low radar signature, and internal volume. It tends to be a poor choice in terms of maneuverability, low-altitude flight, and length of take-off and landing run.

While the delta wing was outdated by that time, Dassault engineers moved the aircraft's center of lift in front of its center of gravity, giving the fighter a degree of instability that enhanced maneuverability. This also reduced the reduced run. In the older Mirage deltas, lowering the elevons on takeoff to increase lift would push the aircraft's nose back down, but shifting the center of lift eliminated this problem.

Control was maintained by a fly-by-wire control system; two-piece elevons on each wing; and automatic, full length, two-segment leading-edge slats. This gave the Mirage 2000 a level of agility that the Mirage III and 5 lacked, and in fact the new machine would become known for its handling. A noticeably taller tail allowed the pilot to retain control at higher angles of attack, assisted by small strakes mounted along each air intake.

Most of the aircraft was made of metal, but some carbon fiber composite parts were used as well. The Mirage 2000C had a gun armament of twin DEFA-554 30 millimeter guns with 125 rounds each. It could carry up to 6.3 tonnes (13,900 pounds) of stores on nine pylons, with two pylons on each wing and five under the fuselage.

Defensive avionics were mostly built-in, manifested by antennas at the wingtips, tailfin, and below the rudder. A fixed removeable refueling probe could be attached in front of the cockpit, offset to the right. The pilot sat on an SEMB Mark 10 zero-zero ejection seat, a license-built version of the Martin-Baker Mark 10.



* The first Mirage 2000C to go into service was the single-seat "Mirage 2000C" interceptor variant. There were four prototypes, including the initial Mirage 2000 prototype mentioned above. The first production Mirage 2000C flew in November 1982, and was powered by a SNECMA M53-5 turbofan with 5,500 kilograms (12,230 pounds) dry thrust and 8,800 kilograms (19,400 pounds) afterburning thrust.

Initial deliveries were in 1983. The first operational squadron was formed in 1984, the 50th anniversary of the French Armee de l'Air (ADA). Three fighter wings were equipped with the type in total.

The first 37 Mirage 2000Cs delivered to the ADA were fitted with the Thomson-CSF (now Thales) "Radar Doppler Multifunction (RDM)", also known as the "Cyrano 500". The definitive "Radar Doppler Impulse (RDI)", built by Thomson-CSF and Dassault, did not enter operational service until 1987. The 38th Mirage 2000C delivered to the ADA also featured the uprated SNECMA M53-P2 turbofan, with 6,600 kilograms (14,500 pounds) dry thrust and 9,700 kilograms (21,400 pounds) afterburning thrust.

   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                9.13 meters         29 feet 11.5 inches
   length                  14.36 meters        47 feet 1.25 inches
   height                  5.20 meters         17 feet

   empty weight            7,500 kilograms     16,500 pounds
   max loaded weight       17,000 kilograms    37,500 pounds

   maximum speed           2,340 KPH           1,450 MPH / 1,260 KT
   service ceiling         18,000 meters       59,000 feet
   range                   1,480 KM            920 MI / 800 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

Initial defensive avionics fit was a Thomson-CSF "Serval" radar warning receiver (RWR) with antennas on the wingtips and above the rudder; a Dassault "Sabre" jammer below the runner; and a Dassault "Eclair" manually operated chaff-flare dispenser on the lower rear fuselage. In late production, the Eclair was replaced by the automatic Matra "Spirale" chaff-flare dispenser.

Primary armaments of the Mirage 2000C in the interceptor role were the Matra "Super 530" medium-range semi-active radar-guided air to air missile (AAM) on the inboard wing pylons and the Matra "Magic" short-range infrared-seeking AAM on the outboard wing pylons. The Mirage 2000 could also carry air-to-ground weapons in its secondary strike role.


[3] TWO-SEAT MIRAGE 2000B / 2000N / 2000D

* While the first four Mirage 2000 prototypes were all single-seat aircraft, there was a fifth, company-funded prototype. This was a tandem two-seat operational trainer variant, the "Mirage 2000B", which went into limited production. All three of the ADA fighter wings obtained a few Mirage 2000Bs for conversion training.

* As the Mirage 2000 was proposed as an alternative to the ACF, which was a strategic strike aircraft, of course there was interest in developing a dedicated strategic strike variant. This variant was intended to carry the Aerospatiale "Air-Sol Moyenne Portee (ASMP)" nuclear stand-off missile, development of which began in 1978.

The ASMP is 5.38 meters (17 feet 8 inches) long and is propelled by a kerosene-powered ramjet, which allows it to cruise at Mach 3 after being brought up to speed by a solid-propellant booster. The weapon carries a 150 or 300 kilotonne warhead, and can follow terrain using a preprogrammed inertial navigation system to hit a target up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) away.

The nuclear strike requirement materialized into an order in 1979 for two prototypes of a two-seat Mirage 2000 variant for this purpose, with a weapons system operator (WSO) occupying the back seat. The type was originally designated "Mirage 2000P", for "Penetration", but was then changed to "Mirage 2000N", for "Nucleaire". Initial flight was on 3 February 1983, and the type entered operational service in 1988.

The Mirage 2000N was derived from and looks much like the Mirage 2000B, but the nuclear strike variant includes strengthened wings for low altitude operation, as well as low-level precision navigation-attack systems, built around the Dassault/Thomson-CSF "Antilope 5" radar with terrain-avoidance capability. A distinctive big 2,000 liter (530 US gallon) drop tank with a bulbous nose was developed to give the aircraft extended range, and a Mirage 2000N generally carries two of these tanks.

* The Mirage 2000N carries a single ASMP on a centerline pylon. The first 31 built could only carry the ASMP and were designated "Mirage 2000N-K1", but following machines could also carry conventional air-to-ground munitions and were designated "Mirage 2000N-K2".

Conventional stores included laser-guided weapons such as the "AS-30L" missile or various laser-guided bombs, with the munitions directed by an "ATLIS II" or improved optical-infrared "PDLCT" targeting pod, attached to a pylon under the right air intake; various types of iron bombs; the AM39 Exocet antiship missile; the Armat antiradar missile; Matra 68 millimeter unguided rocket packs; Belouga cluster bombs; BAP 100 anti-runway bomb clusters or Durandal runway cratering bombs; BAT 120 antipersonnel / antiarmor bomb clusters; or cannon pods. The new Matra APACHE cruise missile has also been qualified, and the machine can carry reconnaissance and jamming pods.

Delays in the Dassault Rafale advanced fighter program led to an ADA order for an updated Mirage 2000N dedicated to conventional attack, the "Mirage 2000D", which deleted ASMP capability and featured an improved navigation-attack system. Initial flight of the Mirage 2000D was on 19 February 1991. Conventional stores are the same as for the Mirage 2000N-K2.



* "Mirage 2000E" was a blanket designation for a series of export variants of the Mirage 2000, each of which actually had a suffix that depended on the country ordering it. These aircraft were fitted with the RDM radar, as the RDI was judged too advanced for export, and were also fitted with other less sophisticated avionics.

Egypt was the first buyer, ordering 16 single-seat "Mirage 2000Ms" and four "Mirage 2000BM" trainers in late 1981, with deliveries beginning in 1986. The Egyptians also purchased ATLIS II targeting pods and a wide range of appropriate munitions for their shiny new Mirages, including Magic and Super 530 AAMs, AS-30L ASMs, and Armat anti-radiation missiles.

India ordered 36 "Mirage 2000H" single-seaters and four "Mirage 2000TH" trainers in early 1982, with an additional order for three more single-seaters and three more trainers in 1986. First deliveries were in 1985. Initial aircraft in the order were powered by the older SNECMA M53-5 engine to speed delivery, but these aircraft were eventually upgraded to the better M53-P2 engine. The Indian Air Force named the Mirage the "Vajra", loosely translated as "Thunderbolt". India also purchased appropriate stores along with the fighters, though it the purchase did not include ATLIS II pods and laser-guided weapons.

Peru placed an order that, after some complications, amounted to eight single-seat "Mirage 2000Ps" and two "Mirage 2000DP" trainers. The Peruvians ordered a set of munitions similar to that ordered by Egypt, along with ATLIS II targeting pods.

* This first series of Mirage 2000Es sold to Egypt, India, and Peru were followed by a second series featuring modest avionics enhancements that was sold to Abu Dhabi and Greece.

Beginning in 1983, Abu Dhabi purchased 22 single-seat "Mirage 2000EADs", eight unique single-seat reconnaissance variants designated the "Mirage 2000RAD", and six "Mirage 2000DAD" trainers. Abu Dhabi forces requested improvements in defensive avionics that delayed delivery of the first of these aircraft until 1989.

The "Mirage 2000RAD" reconnaissance variant does not have any built-in cameras or sensors, and the aircraft can still be operated in air combat or strike roles. The reconnaissance systems are implemented in pods, including the Thomson-CSF / Raphael "SLAR 2000" radar pod; the Dassault "COR2" multi-camera pod with visible and infrared imaging capability; and the Dassault "AA-3-38 HAROLD" telescopic long-range optical camera pod. Abu Dhabi is the only nation operating such a "specialized" reconnaissance variant of the Mirage 2000 at this time.

Beginning in March 1985, the Greeks ordered 36 single-seat "Mirage 2000EGs" and four "Mirage 2000BG" trainers, featuring improved defensive avionics. These Mirage 2000s were later modified in the field to carry the Exocet antiship missile.



* By the late 1980s, the Mirage 2000 was beginning to age relative to the competition, and export sales slumped. Dassault began work on an update featuring Thomson-CSF multimode "Radar Doppler Multitarget" ("RDY" in its French acronym); a more powerful processor; improved defensive avionics; compatibility with the new Matra "Mica" AAM, which is available in both heat-seeking and active radar homing versions; and a new five-display "glass cockpit" layout borrowed from the Rafale program. The RDY radar provides true multitarget tracking and can guide four Micas to different targets simultaneously.

The old prototype Mirage 2000B was extensively modified to fly as the first next-generation "Mirage 2000-5", in October 1990. The first single-seat Mirage 2000-5 flew in April 1991. Mirage 2000-5 variants are externally difficult to distinguish from first-generation Mirage 2000 variants, and possess the same SNECMA M53-P2 engine.

Dassault needed an order from the ADA to help promote foreign sales, and after some lobbying, in 1993 the ADA decided to upgrade 37 of their existing Mirage 2000s to 2000-5 specification as a stopgap before the arrival of the Rafale in ADA service. The upgraded aircraft were redesignated "Mirage 2000-5F", and became operational in 2000.

In 1992, the Taiwanese Air Force ordered 48 single-seat "Mirage 2000-5EIs" and 12 "Mirage 2000-5DI" trainers, with introduction of the first squadron in 1997 and the last fighters delivered in 1999. In 1994, Qatar ordered nine single-seat "Mirage 2000-5EDAs" and three "Mirage 2000-5DDA" trainers, with initial deliveries in late 1997.

* Dassault then extended the improvements a bit further with the "Mirage 2000-9", which features an "RDY-2" radar, the high-power "Modular Data Processing Unit (MDPU)" designed for the Rafale, and an improved countermeasures suite with a new lowband jammer. The RDY-2 is similar to the original RDY, but features two new air-to-ground modes, including a high-resolution "synthetic aperture radar (SAR)" imaging mode.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE, with the machines specifically ordered by Abu Dhabi) was the launch customer, ordering 30 new-build aircraft and 33 upgrades, with initial deliveries in late 2002. The UAE Mirage 2000-9s are well-equipped for the strike mission, as they are being provided with the "Shehab" laser targeting pod, a variant of the Thales Damocles pod, and the Nahar navigation pod, complementing the air-to-ground modes of the RDY-2 radar. The UAE is also obtaining the "Black Shahine" cruise missile, which is basically a variant of the APACHE.

In 2000, Greece ordered a batch of 25 "Mirage 2000-5 Mark 2" fighters, which are essentially Mirage 2000-9s, including 15 new-build aircraft and 10 upgrades from their existing Mirage 2000EGs. Dassault is also competing for a Brazilian deal with the Mirage 2000-9. Ironically, Dassault so far has had absolutely no luck promoting the Rafale on the export market, while the less-expensive new Mirage 2000s with Rafale technology are selling well.

Another piece of Rafale technology being ported to the Mirage 2000 is the Thales AIDA visual identification pod, which includes infrared and optical sensors for IFF and targeting. It will be used by ADA Mirage 2000-5Fs.

Further development of the second-generation type is expected to include a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver; a Joint Tactical Information Datalink System (JTIDS); compatibility with helmet-mounted sights for off-boresight heat-seeking missiles; and unspecified long-range sensors.


[6] MIRAGE 4000

* The "Mirage 4000" was a scaled-up version of the Mirage 2000, initially with twin SNECMA M53-2 engines. It was originally announced in late 1975 as the "Delta Super Mirage", with a mockup displayed two years later and first flight in early 1979. It is believed the project was riding on some degree of Saudi Arabian interest.

The Mirage 4000 had an empty weight 74% greater than that of the Mirage 2000. The Mirage 4000 was comparable in size to the US F-15 Eagle or the Russian Su-27 fighters. It had canards mounted on the air intakes.

The Mirage 4000 was a Dassault private venture. It was intended to be used as an interceptor and for low-level strike, with a warload of 8 tonnes (17,600 pounds) carried on 11 stores pylons. Extensive internal fuel tankage gave it long range. Like other Mirage delta fighters, it carried twin 30 millimeter DEFA cannon.

   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                12 meters           39 feet 4 inches
   length                  18.7 meters         61 feet 4 inches
   empty weight            13,000 kilograms    28,660 pounds
   typical loaded weight   17,000 kilograms    37,500 pounds

   maximum speed           2,445 KPH           1,520 MPH / 1,320 KT
   service ceiling         20,000 meters       65,600 feet
   combat radius           2,000 KM            1,245 MI / 1,080 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

The aircraft was partly built of composite materials. Only one was built, and flew in test and demonstrations during the early 1980s, during which it was updated to SNECMA M53-5 engines.

Dassault had no buyers for the big Mirage 4000 and it was mothballed for a few years, but pulled out of retirement in 1986 with a spiffy new desert camouflage scheme to be used as a test platform for the Rafale fighter. By 1995, however, it had taken up permanent residence as an exhibit at the Paris Air & Space Museum.



* French and Abu Dhabi Mirage 2000s saw operational use during the Gulf War, though apparently they did not see much actual combat action. French Mirage 2000s have been prominent participants in UN and NATO air operations over the former Yugoslavia, with one aircraft shot down over Bosnia by a heat-seeking missile in 1996.

Mirage 2000 variants have a bewildering and variable set of designations, with confusion partly caused by the fact that the French use suffixes to designate capability, such as "N" for "Nuclear", rather than place in a sequence. Marketing also played a role. For example, Dassault advertised an export variants of the Mirage 2000D with a fixed inflight refueling probe as the "Mirage 2000S", but had no takers and dropped the designation. I have taken as minimalist an attitude towards designations as I can get away with in this document.

Sources include:

* Revision history:

   v1.0   / 01 mar 00 / gvg
   v1.0.1 / 01 aug 02 / gvg / Minor cosmetic update.
   v1.0.2 / 01 dec 02 / gvg / Added comments on Mirage 2000-9 customers.
This document originally began life as a part of an article on the entire Mirage delta series, including the Mirage III and its relatives, as well as the Mirage IV bomber. As I learned more details about these aircraft, that document proved too restrictive, and I broke it into three separate documents, the first on the Mirage III family; the second on the Mirage 2000 and 4000; and the third on the Mirage IV.