The Dassault Mirage 2000D is a versatile jet fighter and has been in service with the French Air Force for more than two decades. It is a developed variant of the original Mirage 2000. On Wednesday 9th January the plane had taken off from the Nancy-Ochey Air Base on a routine training mission. CNN has reported that the jet plane suddenly went off the radar and is feared to have crashed in a mountainous area in eastern France.

The crash

The plane with a crew of two had taken off in the morning for a low flying mission.

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This involves flying close to the ground. The plane lost radio contact, and it is feared to have crashed between Doubs and Jura.

A massive search for the missing crew was launched, but till date, there is no trace of them. The wreckage of the jet is located, and rescuers have reached the site. The rescuers have recovered part of the fabric of the parachute used in the plane. The plane has an automatic ejection mechanism. Once the pilot pulls a lever, the ejection is triggered and immediately sends a signal.

In this case, the signal was not triggered, and rescuers are in the dark about the fate of the pilots. BBC has reported that the air force spokesman, Col Cyrille Duvivier, brought out that there had been no ejection signal.

Mirage 2000D

The Mirage 2000 is a lethal plane and is also used by the Indian Air Force. I have had an opportunity to fly the plane which has excellent avionics. The crash is a mystery, and a court inquiry will investigate the cause. The matter is compounded by a statement of Yarn Button the station commander of the base who in a statement to France-3 stated that the pilots were "experienced."

The search for the missing crew which was called off at night resumed on Thursday morning.

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So far the search has drawn a blank One of the rescue workers has commented that the area " wasn't an easy area to access." More than 120 personnel including police are taking part in the search.

Investigation

France maintains an independent nuclear deterrent and the Mirage which is a low flying jet to help it evade enemy radar forms a part of that. It is imperative to know whether the crash was due to " pilot error" or engine failure. The plane which flies at treetop level gives very little time to a pilot to escape in case of an engine failure.

Given the Mirage being an inherently safe plane, the French Air Force will be keen to know what happened. The Metz public prosecutor's office has opened an investigation, but the crucial analysis will have to be done by the French Air Staff and technical team. They will have to also focus on the training procedures lack of which saw a pilot fall from an aircraft during an air show in Belgium.

Last word

The French Air Force has significant numbers of Mirage 2000D. The loss of an operational jet on a training mission with probable loss of lives of the pilots will need thorough and detailed investigation especially as similar crashes had taken place elsewhere when an Italian Eurofighter crashed some time back.

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