War in Ukraine: By sending Mirage fighters, France steps up support for Kyiv

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French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Thursday, June 6, that France would send Ukraine Mirage 2000-5s fighter jets. He did not specify the number of fighter jets to be delivered, of which France has a limited number.

A French Mirage 2000-5F fighter jet takes off from the Luxeuil-Saint-Sauveur air base (eastern France) on March 13, 2022.

A French Mirage 2000-5F fighter jet takes off from the Luxeuil-Saint-Sauveur air base (eastern France) on March 13, 2022.

French President Emmanuel Macron surprised observers on Thursday, June 6, in a televised interview on TF1 and France 2 conducted after the commemorations for the 80th anniversary of D-Day, when he announced that France would be sending fighter jets to Ukraine. “A plan for the transfer” of Mirage 2000-5s fighters will be launched “as soon as tomorrow,” the French president said, on the eve of a visit to Paris by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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In recent months, several sources within the armed forces and the government suggested that they had given up on this option, which was considered too complex, opting instead to step aside in favor of transfers of American F-16s proposed by other countries − Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.

The president’s announcement has signified a break with that line. Macron did not specify how many Mirage jets might be sent, but he did say that “a coalition” was being “built” “with other partners,” and that this could take “five to six months.”

In practice, there aren’t many realistic options for France to hand over a reasonable number of aircraft to Ukraine. The French air force has only a limited number of fighters at its disposal (26 Mirage 2000-5s, out of around 200 Mirage and Rafale aircraft).

These numbers have already barely sufficed for France to carry out all the missions for which it is responsible on a day-to-day basis (territorial surveillance, deterrence, participation in NATO missions, etc.).

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The last French fighter squadron still operating Mirage 2000-5s is the 1/2 Cigognes, stationed at the Luxeuil air base in eastern France. Yet withdrawing aircraft from this squadron to give to Kyiv would amount to ending the unit. Another option, discussed by experts