French Air Force Retires its Mirage 2000N Nuclear-Capable Bomber Fleet

The French Air Force has decommissioned its fleet of Mirage 2000N nuclear-capable bombers during a ceremony on June 21 at Istres Air Base located near Istres, northwest of Marseille, France.

The farewell ceremony preceded the reading of the agenda by the General of the Air Corps Olivier Taprest, Major General of the Air Force. The Patrouille de France (French Acrobatic Patrol, the French Air Force aerobatic team), the Mirage 2000 Couteau Delta Tactical Display team and the Rafale Solo Display team took part in an air display to round out this memorable day.

First commissioned in April 1988 within the strategic air forces, the Mirage 2000N specialized in nuclear deterrence for thirty years. The bomber was equipped with the ASMP (Air-Sol Moyenne Portée, medium-range air to surface missile) missile, followed by the ASMPA (ASMP-Amélioré, improved ASMP), and was used in addition for a number of conventional missions during operations abroad.

In March 2018, the Mirage 2000N fleet returned from its last mission in the Sahel region of Africa to perform its farewell tour. The Mirage 2000N bombers will be replaced by Rafale fighters in the “La Fayette” 2/4 fighter squadron.

Dassault Mirage 2000N

The Dassault Mirage 2000N is a variant of the Mirage 2000 designed for nuclear strike and formed the core of the French air-based strategic nuclear deterrent until its retirement. The Mirage 2000D is its conventional attack counterpart.

The Mirage 2000N is based on the Mirage 2000B two-seat trainer, but features considerable changes. The airframe was strengthened for low-level flight and fitted with an Antilope 5 radar, which is used for terrain following, navigation and ground mapping, and which can follow terrain at 1,112 km/h (691 mph).

They were intended to carry the Aerospatiale Air-Sol Moyenne Portee (ASMP) nuclear stand-off missile. The ASMP missile is 5.38 meters long with a kerosene-powered ramjet that allows it to cruise at Mach 3 to a maximum range of 300 km carrying a single 300 kiloton TN 81 nuclear warhead.

An advanced version of ASMP, known as ASMP-A (ASMP-Amélioré, improved ASMP), has a range of about 500 kilometres at a speed of up to Mach 3 with the new TNA (tête nucléaire aéroportée) 300kt thermonuclear warhead.

The first batch of 30 aircraft had a sole nuclear capability, and these were designated Mirage 2000N-K1. The later batch of 44 aircraft were designated Mirage 2000N-K2 and had both a nuclear and conventional capability, and a full defensive fit. Aircraft with the updated countermeasures system and capable of carrying both the ASMP-A missile (improved ASMP) and the Thales Pod Reco NG (Pod de Reconnaissance Nouvelle Generation) aerial reconnaissance pod was redesignated as Mirage 2000N-K3.

The Mirage 2000N is not licensed for export due to its strategic role.

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