The Mirage 2000 in Brazil
In recent years the Brazilian Air Force (FAB - Força Aérea Brasileira) began to implement an ambitious program to replace and acquire new military equipment and review its training and operational standards. The program is known by the name "Projeto Fênix" (Phoenix Project) and it aims to bring the Brazilian Air Force capability up to the best air forces around the world. Even with some delays and budget restraints, several of the project objectives have been achieved and many others are well on schedule.
An experienced former Mirage III pilot and already flying the F-2000, Lt. Col. Arnaldo is the current
1º GDA commander and the man in-charge to introduce the F-2000 into FAB service.
The principal single acquisition intended for the FAB is a new generation fighter to replace the majority of its front-line combat fleet by a single type. The F-X Project, as it is known, began several years ago but it still has no winner, and in 2005, the decision on the best fighter for the FAB was postponed once again, the final decision now will be made around 2011. In the mean time, the F-103s of the 1º GDA reached their operational life limit and were retired from service. To fill the operational gap left by the Mirage III withdrawal at the end of 2005, the Air Force Command worked out a plan to find an emergency interim replacement for the F-103 and also a fighter that could introduce the use of new technologies onto the air force routine and prepare its pilots for the transition to the future F-X winner. The final choice was to acquire twelve second-hand ex-Armée de L’Air Mirage 2000C RDI fighters.
On July 15, 2005, presidents Luís Inácio Lula da Silva and Jacques Chirac met in Paris and signed a contract
for the transfer of twelve Dassault Mirage 2000s (ten "C" and two "B" versions) from the Armée de l’Air to
the Brazilian Air Force. The announced contract is worth € 80 million and covers also pilot and ground crew
training plus operational support. The deliveries were divided in three batches; four aircraft in 2006, four
in 2007 and the last four in 2008.
Col. Heraldo (2003/04 - 1º GDA commander) and the Brig. Juniti Saito (FAB Commander
in-Chief) in France.
On March 6, 2006, a group of six Brazilian pilots from the 1º Grupo de Defesa Aérea (1º GDA – 1st Air Defence Group) began their training in France. The first phase of the training was conducted at Dijon (BA102) and afterwards two pilots from the group were transferred to Orange (BA115), where they started the practical course on the aircraft.
On April 4, 2006 Capt. Mioni and Maj. Grolla made their first solo flight on the Mirage 2000.
On April 4, 2006, Major Grolla and Captain Mioni were the first ever Brazilian pilots to solo fly the Mirage 2000. Grolla and Mioni were later certified as the type’s instructors and on June 6, 2006, the other four pilots, Major Braga, Captain Breviglieri, Captain Leite and Captain Braga began to receive their flight instruction at Orange Air Base with the last instruction flight taken by a Brazilian pilot that year on October 10, 2006.
The first six Brazilian pilots to fly the Mirage 2000. Maj. Grolla, Maj. Braga, Capt.
Mioni, Capt. Breviglieri, Capt. Braga, Lt. Leite.
With all six pilots being experienced ex-Mirage III pilots, the training on the Mirage 2000 proceeded very
quickly without major problems. One of the pilots told the author: "The gap between the Mirage 2000 and the
Mirage III is enormous. With the Mirage III we had to concentrate on many aircraft flight aspects and be
aware to not push the aircraft out of its flight envelope. On the Mirage 2000 we are free to focus mainly
on the combat and do not have to worry about the aircraft limitations, as the computer does it for us".
President Lula da Silva is briefed by Col. Isaías about the F-2000.
The first two F-2000s, one Mirage 2000C (FAB 4940, ex-AdlA nº C25) and one Mirage 2000B (FAB 4932, ex-AdlA nº B502), arrived at Anápolis Air Base on September 4, 2006, after a ferry flight of more than 5.600 miles(9000km) with a stop at Dakar, Senegal. Two more aircraft followed in October the same year, they were two Mirage 2000C (FAB 4941, ex-AdlA nº C29 and FAB 4942, ex-AdlA nº C34), and the aircraft officially received the operational designation F-2000 by the Brazilian Air Force.
Capt. Paul and Lt. Bevilaqua get on their machine for an early training sortie.
The first Mirage 2000 flew on March 10, 1978 and the airframes selected by Brazil were produced between 1984 and 1987 with all twelve being S4 variants (equipped with the RDI J-1 radar, the baseline M53 engine and capable of fire the Super 530D missile) Although the received aircraft soldiered on the Armée de l’Air for around 20 years, they still remain very impressive and modern fighters. The Mirage 2000 surpasses the aircraft it is replacing, the Mirage III, in all aspects and its agility and performance is comparable to the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The new aircraft will put the GDA pilots in touch with the technologies used in the modern air arena, like Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles, high capacity radar, electronic counter measures, high manoeuvrability and fly-by-wire controls.
To keep the birds flying they work hard on ground!
Not only the pilots were impressed by the capabilities of the Mirage 2000, the technicians and mechanics of the squadron are also delighted with the much easier and economical maintenance compared to the old Mirage III. Equipped with a Built-in Test system, the F-2000 requires fewer personnel for its maintenance than its predecessor. In their last years of operation each Mirage III demanded one preventive inspection at every 75 hours of flight, while on the F-2000 the deep maintenance interval is 900 flight hours or three years. Dassault quote a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) of 6.8 hours, which is extremely good compared to other fighters in the same category. Also the concept of modules used on the F-2000 is very practical, logical and time saving.
A great group! Mixed are the 1º GDA commander and its men, the CECOMSAER team, Col. Machado and
Lt.Col. Fagundes, the Anápolis AB commander Col. Martins, the AdlA pilots and
commander of the French detachment at CRUZEX III, Gen. Jacques Cazamea.
The aircraft is planned to be on duty in Brazil for at least ten years and it may receive some updates and upgrades during its operational life. The twelve F-2000 are fitted with the Matra Super 530D and the R550 Magic II missiles plus several other types of weapons and sensors. They are to be used primarily in the air defence role but can also provide air-to-ground support and ground strike using unguided weapons.
One of the possible key future upgrades for the aircraft, not planned by FAB yet, would be the integration of the MBDA MICA missile and also a data-link system, which could provide full compatibility and integration with the AWACS Embraer R-99A/B, improving its combat capacities and lethality.
Lt. Charone and Capt. Paul discuss their last training sortie while leaving the Anápolis AB ramp.
Until the resume of the F-X program, the F-2000, alongside the 46 modernised F-5M, will be the backbone of the Brazilian air defence. It will not only have the duty to protect the Brazilian skies, but also to train and prepare the 1º GDA pilots for the transition to the future winner of the F-X bidding. If the Mirage 2000 proves that it was the right choice for the FAB, it may lead another French aircraft to be the F-X front runner, the Dassault Rafale.