Another veteran of the Cold War has bowed out after the French Air Force retired its last operational Mirage 2000N supersonic nuclear bomber. In a military ceremony marked by aerial demonstrations and a static aircraft display at the 125 airbase of Istres on June 21, General Olivier Taprest, Major General of the Air Force marked the official end of service for the aircraft after over 30 years.

The Dassault Mirage 2000N has been the workhorse of the air arm of the French nuclear forces since its introduction in 1988 as a replacement for the Mirage IVP. Based on the Mirage 2000B two-seat trainer, it first flew on February 3, 1986 and a total of 75 were built with production ending in 1993.

Though it's based on a trainer aircraft, the 2000N was strengthened for low-level flying. With its wingspan of 9 m (30 ft) and single SNECMA M53-P2 after-burning turbofan engine, it could reach speeds of up to Mach 1.96 (2,338 km/h, 1,289 knots, 1,453 mph). However, it was only a medium-range bomber with its distinctive wing drop tanks providing a combat radius of 800 nm (1,480 km, 920 mi)

Thanks to its Dassault/Thales Antilope 5 terrain-following radar, Sabre jamming system, and Spirale chaff system, it could hug the ground to avoid enemy fire before popping up to deploy its one Aerospatiale Air-Sol Moyenne Portee (ASMP) medium-range nuclear stand-off missile. This is a kerosene-powered ramjet cruise missile that can reach speeds of up to Mach 3 (3,581 km/h, 1,934 knots, 2,225 mph) and a range of 100 km (54 nm, 62 mi) to deliver its 300-kiloton thermonuclear warhead to target.

A victim of the French Air Force's modernization program, the 2000N is being replaced by the Dassault Rafale F3, which will carry the air arm of the French nuclear deterrent force called the Force de Dissuasion. According to the Air Force, the retirement of the 2000N marks the change to an "all Rafale" combat fleet.

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