In late 2015, the French ministry of defense approved a mid-life update (MLU) for the air force’s Mirage 2000D fighter-bombers, for which Dassault announced a contract on July 19 last year. The upgrade will be applied to 55 of the 60-plus aircraft that remain in the Armée de l’Air inventory and will equip them for service until around 2030. The upgrade is being undertaken in line with France’s desire to maintain force levels at 225 air force and navy combat aircraft, the updated Mirage 2000Ds to serve alongside Rafales from both services.
Major elements of the program include the addressing of radar and avionics obsolescence issues and the replacement of the MBDA Magic 2 infrared-guided air-to-air missile with the MBDA MICA-IR, the latter allowing the Mirage to expand its air-to-air tasking from a purely self-defense capability. Sagem’s AASM precision-guided bomb will be introduced, as will the Thales Talios targeting pod, as developed for the Rafale, to replace the current Damoclès pod. Upgrades to datalinks will allow the Mirage 2000D to remain fully interoperable with allied aircraft for joint operations.
Aircraft are not scheduled to enter the MLU process until late 2018, but elements of the upgrade are being tested on a Mirage 2000D assigned to the DGA EV (Direction Générale de l’Armaments-Essais en Vol), the French procurement agency’s flight test department. That aircraft is being shown at Le Bourget as part of the French armed forces outside static display, and is one of nine Mirages assigned to the DGA EV at Cazaux. The aircraft is instrumented for trials work, including a rear-facing camera in an undernose fairing for recording weapon separation.
Not only does the aircraft carry the Talios pod intended for the Mirage MLU, but also new weapon systems. One is the podded Nexter DEFA 550F 30-mm cannon, which is carried under the port intake pylon close to the aircraft’s centerline. This proven cannon is installed internally in the single-seat Mirage 2000, but not in two-seat versions such as the 2000D. Adding the podded system thus confers a strafing ability on the Mirage for the close air support role, as well as a close-in air-to-air capability.
Also on show on the aircraft is the Thales/TDA ASPTT (Air-Sol Petite Taille Tactique) small-diameter tactical air-to-ground bomb, three of which are attached to a triple-rack launcher. The laser-guided weapon offers a small-warhead precise-attack capability with low collateral damage effects. The compact seeker is derived from that used in TDA’s RGL (laser-guided rocket) and MGM (mortar guided munition). Both the cannon pod and ASPTT have just entered the flight carriage test phase, and no firings or releases have been undertaken yet.