November 27, 2007:
The last of 601 French Mirage
2000 fighters has been manufactured by Dassault Aviation, and the production
line was shut down. That aircraft was delivered to the Greek Air Force (as part
of an order for fifteen.)
A 1970s design, the first Mirage 2000 flew in 1978,
and it entered service in 1984. The French Air Force bought 315, while the rest
were exported to eight countries. The Mirage 2000 was a lightweight (17 ton)
fighter with similar capabilities to the U.S. F-16 (of which over 4,000 were
manufactured). The aircraft served in several combat zones, but aside from
dropping some bombs, never saw much action.
Most of the Mirage 2000s built are still in
service, and it will be another two decades. In the meantime, French firms do a
brisk business upgrading older Mirage 2000s with excellent French radars and
other electronics systems. The Mirage 2000 project cost the French government
billions of dollars in subsidies. The completion from U.S. and Russian aircraft
(after the Cold War ended and lots of cheap MiG-29s and Su-27s came on the
market), made it impossible for the Mirage 2000 to sell any better than it did.
It's successor, the Rafale, is having an even harder time selling to export
markets. But all that money and effort keeps France in that small circle of
nations that can produce jet fighters.