Egypt began receiving its first Mirage 2000 in 1985, and a fleet of 14 aircraft entered service in 1986.
Mirage 2000 light fighter, which entered service with the French Air Force in 1984, six years after its first flight, and has similar features to the US Air Force’s F-16 Fighting Falcons, in service since 1978. Initially, the Mirage 2000 was developed alongside the heavy fighter version Mirage 4000, designed as a fighter similar to the F-15; then Mirage 4000 was canceled, due to budget constraints and lack of interest from foreign customers.
The Mirage 2000 uses a large delta wing design, with no horizontal tail and no canard. The Mirage 2000 is also more expensive than the F-16, due to the smaller scale of production and the low efficiency of French defense production compared to the US. The Mirage 2000’s engine was weaker than the F-16’s; especially weapons, there is no equivalent to the medium-range missile AIM-7 Sparrow used by the US F-16 fighter (later the long-range missile AIM-120).
France considered the export of Mirage 2000 a “salvage” to offset development costs and to continue to improve the quality of the French Mirage 2000. Its first customer was the Egyptian Air Force. Egypt began receiving its first Mirage 2000 in 1985, and a fleet of 14 aircraft entered service in 1986. Sources say the Egyptian Air Force purchased a total of 17 aircraft.
Egypt decided not to buy more Mirage 2000, simply cheaper and free F-16s, as part of the annual US military aid to the country. Although the F-16 is rated higher than the Mirage 2000 in some features; however, the US-aided F-16s to Egypt were greatly downgraded, with poor avionics and no use of modern aviation weapons. That means the Egyptian Mirage 2000s, have better combat performance.
It took 30 years after the first Mirage 2000s were purchased, the Egyptian Air Force began its revolution in 2014. Its fighter fleet is being modernized with modern air defense capabilities, something it previously coveted. The decision followed a surprise NATO attack on neighboring Libya, which raised concerns about the threat posed by the West. The plan to modernize the Egyptian Air Force also follows the 2013 overthrow of Egypt’s pro-Western Muslim government, which soured relations with the United States.
Egypt began to phase out the first generation F-16s. They have purchased new 4+ generation fighters, including the French Rafale, the Russian MiG-29M and the heavy Su-35. These new weapons gave the Egyptian Air Force access to modern air defense weapons such as the R-77 and R-73 missiles for Russian fighters, and the R-37M and MICA for the Rafale.
Modern Rafale variants are equipped with Meteor long-range air-to-air missiles as standard armament, although they are not believed to be exported to Egypt, forcing the country to rely on the much less capable and older medium-range MICA missiles. This represents a long-standing trend, with Western powers refusing to sell Egypt modern air-to-air missiles. Previously, the number of Egyptian F-16 aircraft was not equipped with AIM-120 long-range missiles, making the F-16’s combat ability very limited.
The fate of Egypt’s only remaining Mirage 2000 fleet is uncertain, and the Mirage 2000 could be retired with the F-16s or upgraded to complement the Rafales. With MICA missiles on Rafale, Egypt can also take advantage of this opportunity to equip Mirage 2000. However, keeping a single fleet of Mirage 2000 creates a greater maintenance burden than taking advantage of its features.