Will Old Mirage 2000s Become Morocco’s New Primary Fighters? Second Hand Jets May Come From Qatar and UAE

The Moroccan Air Force is expected to become the world’s last new operator of the ageing French Mirage 2000 fourth generation fighter, with the country reportedly set to invest in replacing its ageing third generation Mirage F1 and American sourced F-5 fighters with the newer but still increasingly obsolete design. 

The service fields seven fighter squadrons including two each of F-5E/F and F-1 fighters, although standard squadron sizes in the fleet remain small averaging just 10 aircraft each. 22 F-5s and 26 Mirage F1s are thought to currently be in service, alongside 23 F-16s which are split between three very small squadrons. 

While the Mirage 2000 has been out of production for close to two decades, the aircraft are being retired by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates which are both replacing their fleets with the newer French Rafale ‘4+ generation’ design. Qatar ordered 12 Mirage 2000-5 fighters in 1994, but began to phase them out of service in favour of Rafale jets in 2019, and has been rumoured to be the source of Morocco’s first Mirage 2000 batch which will replace a single squadron - likely the older unit of Mirage F1C  fighters. This remains to be confirmed. 

The UAE fields a much larger fleet of 66 Mirage 2000s including 59 enhanced Mirage 2000-9 and 7 Mirage 2000 RAD reconnaissance variants, with several older Mirage 2000-9 airframes thought to be in storage. Unconfirmed reports from December 2021 have indicated that these will be split between Morocco and Egypt when retired, the latter which operates a very small squadron of 17 Mirage 2000s for which it was the first ever export client in the 1980s. 

The Mirage 2000 is considered the French equivalent to the American F-16 Fighting Falcon, although the lack of comparable upgrade packages including AESA radars or viable long range air to air missiles has left it effectively obsolete compared to its American rival. Contending with inferior armaments and a much weaker engine, the Mirage has consistently struggled to compete with the F-16 particularly due to its higher cost.

A notable indictor of the Mirage 2000's standing compared to the F-16 that Taiwan’s air force, despite acquiring the two classes at the same time and paying considerably more for the Mirages, is set to retire the French built jets several decades early and replace them with newer variants of the F-16. 

Seven of Taiwan's 60 Mirages have crashed since delivery, making it by far its most dangerous fighter to fly as problems with manufacturing quality in France have been frequently reported. Although for Morocco the Mirage 2000 represents a considerable improvement over the F-5E and Mirage F1, albeit with a higher operational cost, its ability to counter modern fighters from neighbouring Algeria such as the MiG-29M and Su-30MKA remains limited. 

Depending on the numbers of Mirage 2000 fighters acquired, Morocco may well intend them as a much cheaper substitute to acquiring modern variants of the F-16 - the F-16 Block 70/72 - which were originally expected to replace the F-5s and are technologically several decades ahead of the ageing French jets. 

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