Tuesday, May 4, 2010

UAE's Mirage 2000s and Strategic Balance

Arabian Aerospace reports that, as a condition to purchase the Rafale fighter, UAE will require Dassault to buy back its 62 Mirage 2000-9s. The question then becomes, who will buy these 62 Mirages? These 62 Mirages may end up altering a strategic balance in the world.

This question is a tough one for Dassault because it no longer markets Mirage 2000s. It has staked its future on the Rafale, and its sales efforts focus on that. This batch of Mirages can interfere with Rafale prospects.

Wiki shows that the current operators of Mirage 2000s are: France, India, UAE, Taiwan, and Greece. Egypt, Qatar, Peru, and Brazil each operates less than a squadron of Mirage 2000s. We can knock off India and Brazil off the list right away, as they both have a current fighter competition in which Rafale is a contender. Greece is having economic difficulties and cannot spend its EU bailout on surplus aircrafts. We can probably say the same [economic difficulties] about potential new prospects such as Argentina, who currently operate older Mirages. Qatar Air Force and Peruvian Air Force are too small to absorb any significant quantities.

Egypt and Pakistan are good prospects. However, Egypt has been buying F-16s, and is talking with Pakistan to jointly manufacture the Sino-Pakistani JF-17. A Mirage sale to Pakistan may also upset India, whose Air Force got Rafale back into MRCA.

So the remaining customer, however improbable, is emerging as the most likely prospect: Taiwan. Taiwan already operates 60 2005s, and wants to retire the last 33 of its F-5s. Dassault is unlikely to sell Rafales to Taiwan anytime soon. Taiwan is shopping for more F-16s from Lockheed, but Obama has not been warm to a sale. The stars are lining up for Taiwan, so to speak. It has the money, the will, and the capacity to pick up as many 2000s as it can get. A direct sale from UAE to Taiwan is unlikely to draw major diplomatic heat from China, due to UAE's status as a petroleum exporter. Another 60 2000s would address the growing cross-strait military imbalance nicely.

If Obama continues to drag feet on F-16 sales, Taiwan may end up a Mirage 2000 country. France still has 300+ 2000s it would like to replace with Rafales at some point. India has 51 2000s that were supposed to be placeholders for the MRCA, and it could unload those to Taiwan to help balance against China. As the F-16 line closes down, these surplus 2000s will be Taiwan's only choice.

PS: Edited for links and labels 1JUN2010.


Anonymous said...

I thought Taiwan was committed to supporting the AIDC IDF.

Jimmy said...


Taiwan is "committed" to the IDF. However, its past actions do not inspire confidence.

When France and the US offered fighters for sale in 1990, Taiwan promptly cut the IDF purchase in half to pay for the foreign fighters. If the government again faces the choice between IDF and foreign imports, it is likely to sacrifice the IDF.

With the retirement of the F-5, there is a hole in the air force force structure. the Taiwan Air Force used to operate 280 F-104s and 300+ F-5. Compared to now, when it has 260 fighters, including the 30 F-5s. As I said in the article, Taiwan is one of the few potential customers that have the force structure to absorb 60 Mirage 2000s.

In addition, with PLAAF deployment of Su-27s, Taiwan needs additional fighters to restore parity.

Taiwan faces a budgetary choice. If Taiwan will not afford a fighter force large enough and advanced enough to face PLAAF and PLAN in the Nanjing District, then it might as well admit defeat and surrender now, to minimize potential bloodshed on the island.

F-CK-1 C/D upgrade is required, and engine upgrade is needed. More M-2000s are needed. F-16 C/Ds or A/B-upgrade are needed, too.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the analysis in so far as Pakistan is concerned. The possibility of Pakistan buying Mirage 2000-9s is very much in contention. There is a requirement for Pak-AF to strengthen its new fleet of FC-20s, JF-17s and F-16s.

France needs to understand that not only would Pak-AF would be willing to buy UAE - Mirage 2000-9s but also would be very keen on buying RC-400/MICA radars and missiles. France should note that there are as many as 250 JF-17 Thunders which would form the backbone of Pak-AF's fighter fleet.

It should be noted that Pakistan is the largest operator of Mirage IIIs and Mirage Vs in the world today. Close to 200 Mirages make up a large portion of Pak-AF. Pak-NAVY Agosta submarines in significant numbers.

With such a strong background military deals with France, it wouldn't be good for France if they do not agree to sell Pakistan Air Force RC-400/MICA, plus Mirage-2000/9s.

Jimmy said...


I posted my reply as an article. Basically, because Dassault cares more for India than Pakistan, and because Pakistan likes JF-17 more than Mirages, Pakistan is not a likely prospect.