The two types have often “buddied up” — the D-model aircraft painting targets with their laser designators for the C-model fighters to hit. The short-range fighters usually require tanker support from locally based KC-135FR refueling tankers.
A short French Air Force documentary from 2015 depicts the deployment, daily life, and flight operations of the Mirage units in Niamey, which also serves as a major base for French and U.S. military drones.
Six Mirage 2000Ds first entered action in the region on January 2013 as part of Operation Serval, serving alongside four newer Rafale fighters and two older Mirage F1s. At the time, a military coup had paralyzed the Malian government at the very moment that a Tuareg separatist rebellion hijacked by Islamic extremists overran the entire eastern half of the county, infamously leading to the destruction of ancient texts in the city of Timbuktu.
A rebel army mounted on technicals was making a beeline for the capital of Bamako when the French fighter jets and helicopter gunships swooped into action in support of Malian troops, followed by French special forces and light armor on the ground. The counteroffensive halted and then completely rolled back the rebel advance. However, efforts to keep the peace afterward have suffered setbacks.
The Mirages operating out of the Sahel have encountered their share of difficulties. In June 9, 2014, a 2000D crashed half-way between Gao and Niamey due to an unspecified “technical failure.” And on Sept. 28, 2017, a Mirage 2000N based in N’Djamena crashed during takeoff. In both cases, the crew successfully ejected.
While cooperation between the countries in Operation Barkhane appears to have reduced the short-term likelihood of an incident such as the near collapse of Malian forces in 2013, the many factor that have caused insurgencies to fester in the Sahel region—which include not only political corruption and internal ethno-religious divisions, but also extra-regional conflicts in Libya and Nigeria—seem unlikely to vanish any time soon.
As such, it’s possible Mirage 2000s will stay active over West Africa for some time to come.
This first appeared in WarIsBoring here.