When the Mirage 2000 was introduced many commentators poured scorn on the delta wing, believing that the aircraft would suffer the
same deficiencies as the similarly configured Mirage 3 and the ground attack Mirage 5 -and having inherited the Mirage name probably didnīt help. The General Dynamics F16(having been flown two years previously) was the first combat
aircraft to rely completely on fly by wire technology to maintain level flight and perhaps the concept of static instability and the benefits of FBW were not yet fully understood by commentators.
The European love affair with the
delta has been an enduring one. The United States also flirted with the delta but it has found little favour. The F16 wing is actually a cropped delta but a conventional tailplane is still used for pitch control.
So why use the delta wing?
If one briefly compares the wingspan and area of the F16 with that of the Mirage it becomes clear that for a given wingspan the delta wing has a considerably larger wing area.
The F16 has a wingspan of
9.45 m(31 ft) and an area of 28.8 mē(300 ftē), compared with the Mirage 2000 wingspan of9.18 m(29ft 11.5 in) with itīs 41mē(441ftē). Thus, for a wingspan 3% less than the F16 the Mirage has a 47% greater wing area. Put another way, at itīs
maximum take-off weight of 17000 kg(37 400 lb), the Dash 5 has the same wing loading as a F16 Blk 15 MLU with only internal fuel and two Sidewinders. It is then perhaps not suprising to see a Mirage 2000D participating in flying
displays carrying external fuel, weapons and a targetting pod and still maintaining a high degree of agility.
The delta planform has other advantages. The radar cross section is considerably lower than for a conventional wing and also
the Mirage 2000 has fewer moving surfaces than the F16. The deep wingroot makes it a stronger structure while providing high internal volume.
The delta planform certainly has itīs disadvantages. The Mirage 2000 has only four hardpoints
under the wings against the F16īs eight. It is fair to say that the hardpoint configuration of the F16 makes it more suitable to ground attack than the Mirage. In this respect it is noteworthy that France,Taiwan and Qatar use their
Dash 5 aircraft primarily for air defence.