Taiwan Grounds Accident Prone French Mirage Fighters After Another Loss: 12 Percent of the Fleet Has Crashed

On March 14 a Taiwanese Mirage 2000 fighter crashed off the island’s southeast coast at 10 am local time during a training mission from the Chihhang Airbase, with the pilot ejecting and being rescued safely by helicopter. All Mirage 2000 fighters in Taiwan were subsequently grounded. The accident represents the latest of many suffered by the Taiwanese fleet, with all F-16s being grounded in January after a new F-16V fighter crashed and two F-5E jets and a prior F-16 crashing in 2020. Of the four Taiwanese fighter classes in service, all of which are low maintenance lightweights, only the indigenous F-CK Ching Kuo jets have avoided high crash rates with the American F-5 and F-16 jet, and far moreso the French built Mirage 2000s, having suffered from particularly high crash rates. 

Taiwan’s Air Force became a leading client for the Mirage 2000 after an order for 60 of the jets was placed in 1992, with the aircraft purchased alongside two squadrons worth of F-16A/B Fighting Falcons and a similar number of indigenous F-CK Ching Kuo fighters providing Taiwan with three classes of lightweight fourth generation jets. The Mirage 2000 was by far the most costly, but issues with manufacturing quality in France emerged which resulted in 10 percent of the fleet crashing - with the latest crash bringing this up to to 12 percent. Taiwan’s Air Force has as a result seriously considered retiring the aircraft from service, with cracks having regularly appeared in the airframes while no similar issues have affected the F-16 or other Taiwanese aircraft. Another major factor is the obsolescence of the Mirage 2000’s avionics and armaments, as while the U.S. has offered the F-16V upgrade package for old F-16s including a powerful new APG-83 AESA radar and state of the art avionics and electronic warfare systems, France offers no comparable packages which leaves little use for the fighters even if they were safe to fly. Mirage 2000s are expected to be the first of Taiwan’s four fighter classes to be retired, and are expected to be replaced by new F-16 Block 72 fighters of which 66 were ordered in 2019. The F-16 has not only an overwhelmingly superior combat performance, with avionics and armaments several decades ahead technologically, but also a much better safety record. 

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