Since 1999, eight French-made Mirage 2000 fighter jets have reportedly crashed in Taiwan, including the latest, Monday's incident. National Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said retrofitting is a possibility but the cost needs to be considered.
Military personnel conduct a grid search for pieces of the Mirage 2000 fighter that crashed into the sea off the coast of Taitung City on March 14.
Resident: “I'm keeping an eye out for the wreckage.”
The search took place on the surface and below the water, and a salvage vessel was also present at the scene. Divers said the operation was made more difficult because marine trenches are deeper along the east coast and because of the weather conditions. The Ministry of National Defense is attempting to survey the seabed. Pilot Huang Chung-kai inhaled some seawater after he ejected but is otherwise in good condition and will be discharged on March 16 at the earliest.
Mirage fighters have been in service for over 20 years and are one of the three main fighter types in Taiwan, but the only one that hasn't been retrofitted. There are currently 54 still in commission, and they have already passed the halfway point of their lifespan. The cost of maintaining them is high, and the availability of parts is decreasing.
Chen I-hsin, Legislator (KMT): “Only 20 are still capable of flying, is that right?”
Chiu Kuo-cheng, Nat'l Def. Minister: “No, that's not it. I think it's necessary to mention components when talking about this plane. One plane may have different components than another, which will cause problems. In this case, it may be necessary to remove components from one plane while it's not in use for use in other planes.”
The cost of one hour of flying time in the Mirage is NT$700,000, compared to NT$280,000 for the F-16. The difference is 2.5 times. The current mission-capable rate for the Mirage is 64 percent. Taiwan signed a technical support service agreement with the French manufacturer in 2021, which should boost the mission-capable rate to 75 percent. However, the contract does not include any performance upgrades. Will Taiwan's fighters be able to counter China's new generation fighters? Scholars say the Mirage's special radar will play an extremely important role in combat across the Taiwan Strait.
Su Tzu-yun, Director, Div. of Defense Strategy & Resources, INDSR: “The Mirage's RDY radar is capable of simultaneously scanning 64 targets and simultaneously attacking four. The most important aspect when it comes to electronic warfare is that it can form different combinations with F-16s and IDFs. If that's the case, China will find it harder to take countermeasures.”
National Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said Mirage retrofitting is possible, but the cost has to be considered. Scholars suggest reducing the size of the Mirage fleet as the US continues delivering F-16Vs and assigning some of the interception duties to newly-established wings.