The Dassault Mirage 2000 is a French multirole, single-engine fourth-generation jet fighter manufactured by Dassault Aviation. It was designed in the late 1970s as a lightweight fighter to replace the Mirage III for the French Air Force (Armée de l’Air). The Mirage 2000 evolved into a multirole aircraft with several variants developed, with sales to a number of nations. It was later developed into the Mirage 2000N and 2000D strike variants, the improved Mirage 2000-5 and several export variants. Over 600 aircraft were built and it has been in service with nine nations.
The origins of the Mirage 2000 could be traced back to 1965, when France was involved with Britain “Anglo-French Variable Geometry” (AFVG) swing-wing aircraft. Two years later the country withdrew from the project on grounds of costs, after which Britain would collaborate with Western Germany and Italy to ultimately produce the Panavia Tornado, Dassault focused its energy on its own variable-geometry aircraft, the Dassault Mirage G experimental prototype. The design was expected to materialise in the Mirage G8, which would serve as the replacement for the popular Mirage III in French Air Force service.
The Mirage 2000 started out as a project of secondary project tentatively named “Delta 1000” in 1972. Dassault at the time was devoting considerable attention on a more ambitious design, the Mirage G8A, a fixed-geometry derivative of the Mirage G8 that served as the competitor to the Panavia Tornado. The Mirage G8, which was envisioned as the “Avion de Combat Futur” (ACF / Future Combat Aircraft) of the French Air Force (Armee de l’Air, AdA), did not align with the service’s conception of its future aircraft. More specifically, the AdA wanted a Mach 3 fighter, not an interdictor aircraft incapable of dogfighting that was the Mirage G8. As such, Dassault redesigned the Mirage G8 into the two-engine Super Mirage G8A that would prove to be ambitious and expensive, being two and a half times the price of the Mirage F1, and over-engineered especially compared to the F-16 that had just won orders from a number of European countries. Consequently, during a meeting of the National Defence Council on 18th December 1975, the Super Mirage was cancelled.
The ACF was a strike aircraft first and an interceptor second, while the Delta 2000 was exactly the reverse, but the single-engine Delta 2000 was much more affordable. At the same meeting, what was now redesignated as the Mirage 2000 was offered to the AdA and three prototypes were ordered. The AdA in March 1976 would issue a set of official requirements whose parameters matched that of Dassault’s performance estimates of the new fighter. The aircraft’s primary role was interception with a secondary ground-attack capability; the AdA had an commitment for 200 aircraft. The first aircraft was to be delivered in 1982. This was a return to the first generation Mirages, but with several important innovations that tried to solve their shortcomings.
The production of the Mirage 2000 involves three construction sites, all located in Bordeaux, that specialise in different components. The wings are built at Martignas, and the fuselages are fabricated at Argenteuil, with final assembly taking place at Bordeaux-Merignac. However, the first prototype, Mirage 2000 No. 01, was hand built at St Cloud, before being moved to Dassault’s Istres facility for assembly. At the hands of Jean Coureau, No. 01 made its first flight on 10th March 1978, a mere 27 months after the programme go-ahead. During the 65-minute flight, Coureau took the aircraft to Mach 1.02 without afterburner, before climbing to more than 12,000 m and accelerating the aircraft to Mach 1.3. By the end of May, the aircraft had surpassed Mach 2 and an indicated airspeed of 650 knots. On the other end of the speed spectrum, the Mirage 2000 proved to be a capable low-speed aircraft, as demonstrated at the Farnborough Air Show in September 1978, during which Dassault pilot Guy Mitaux-Maurourd raised the aircraft’s nose to 25° angle of attack as the aircraft slowed to 100 knots. Later tests showed that the aircraft could attain 30° AoA while carrying fuel tanks and weapons.
The second prototype, No. 02, made its 50-minute first flight in September 1978 at the controls of Maurourd. The aircraft was tasked with the testing of some of the avionics systems and the carriage of weapons. Due to a flame out while on a landing approach, the aircraft was lost in May 1984. No. 03 would make its first flight in April 1979; equipped with a complete weapons system, it was tasked with radar and weapons trials. After 400 hours of flight, they were sent to CEV (Centre d’Essais en Vol, Flight tests centre). Although three prototypes were ordered in December 1975, Dassault constructed an additional fourth single-seat demonstrator for its own purposes, which embodied lessons on the earlier aircraft, namely the reduction in fin height and an increased fin sweep, redesigned air inlets and FBW system. The only dual-seat Mirage 2000B of the test programme first flew on 11th October 1980.
The first production Mirage 2000C (C stands for Chasseur, “Fighter”) flew on 20 November 1982. Deliveries to the AdA began in 1983. The first 37 Mirage 2000Cs delivered were fitted with the Thomson-CSF RDM (Radar Doppler Multifunction) and were powered by the SNECMA M53-5 turbofan engine. The 38th Mirage 2000C had an upgraded SNECMA M53-5 P2 turbofan engine. The Radar Doppler Impulse (RDI) built by Thales for the Mirage 2000C entered service in 1987. It has a much improved range of about 150 km, and is linked to Matra Super 530D missiles, which are much improved compared to the older Super 530F. Look-down/shoot-down capabilities are much improved as well, but this radar is not usually used for air-to-surface roles.
The Mirage 2000N is a dedicated nuclear strike variant which was intended to carry the Air-Sol Moyenne Portée (ASMP) nuclear stand-off missile. Flight tests of the first of two prototypes, Mirage 2000N 01 (the eighth Mirage 2000) began on 3rd February 1983. During the 65-minute flight, the aircraft reached a speed of Mach 1.5. The variant entered operational service in 1988, initially operating from Luxeil Air Base with 4e Escadre de Chasse. Closely derived from the Mirage 2000N is a dedicated conventional attack variant designated Mirage 2000D. Initial flight of the Mirage 2000D prototype, a modified Mirage 2000N prototype, was on 19th February 1991. The first flight of a production aircraft occurred 31st March 1993, and service introduction followed in April 1995. A total of 75 and 86 Mirage 2000Ns and Mirage 2000Ds were manufactured, respectively.
By the late 1980s, the Mirage 2000 was beginning to age compared with the latest models of F-16 fighters. In particular, attention was drawn to the aircraft’s inability to engage multiple target simultaneously and the small load of air-to-air missiles it could carry. Consequently, Dassault in April 1989 announced that it (with the cooperation of Thomson-CSF) would be working on a privately funded update of the Mirage 2000C which was to be named the Mirage 2000-5. A two-seat Mirage 2000B prototype was extensively modified as the first Mirage 2000-5 prototype, and it first flew on 24th October 1990. A Mirage 2000C prototype was also reworked to a similar standard, making its initial flight on 27th April 1991. The first front-line aircraft variant to have been designed specifically in response to the export market, Taiwan was the first country to order the type in 1992, followed by Qatar in 1994. The type was first delivered in 1996 and entered service in 1997.
Domestically, Dassault needed an order from the AdA to help promote foreign sales and, in 1993, the AdA decided to upgrade 37 of their existing Mirage 2000s to the 2000-5 specification as a stopgap before the arrival of the Rafale in AdA service. The upgraded aircraft were redesignated Mirage 2000-5F, and became operational in 2000. They retained the old countermeasures system with the Serval/Sabre/Spirale units and did not receive the ICMS 2 system. A two-seat version was developed as well, whose rear seat has a HUD but not an associated head-level display and lacks a built-in cannon, although cannon pods can be carried. At the urging of the United Arab Emirates, Dassault worked on a further modification of the Mirage 2000-5. Initially dubbed Mirage 2000-9, this variant saw the upgrade of the radar and the associated avionics, the change of weapons configuration, and the extension of range
The last Mirage 2000 was delivered on 23rd November 2007 to the Hellenic Air Force; afterwards the production line was shut down.
The aircraft uses retractable tricycle type landing gear by Messier-Dowty, with twin nosewheels and a single wheel on each main gear. A runway tailhook or a fairing for a brake parachute can be fitted under the tail, which can operate in conjunction with the landing gear’s carbon brakes to shorten landing distances. A removable refueling probe can be attached in front of the cockpit, offset slightly to the right of centre. Aircraft flight control system is fly-by-wire.
The Mirage 2000 is available as a single-seat or two-seat multi-role fighter. The pilot flies the aircraft by means of a centre stick and left hand throttles, with both incorporating hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls. The pilot sits on a SEM MB Mk10 zero-zero ejection seat (a license-built version of the British Martin-Baker Mark 10).
The instrument panel (in the Mirage 2000 C) is dominated by a Sextant VE-130 head-up display which presents data relating to flight control, navigation, target engagement and weapon firing, and a radar screen located centrally below it.
The SNECMA M53 afterburning turbofan was developed for the ACF, and was available for the Mirage 2000 project. It is a single-shaft engine of modular construction that is relatively light and simple compared to those of the British or American designs. The M53 consists of three low-pressure compressor stages, five high-pressure stages and two turbine stages. With the development programme consisting of 20 engines, the M53 sans suffix was first bench tested in February 1970 and became airborne on a Caravelle testbed in July 1973. Dassault conducted flight tests of the M53-2 version using its Mirage F1E testbeds starting in December 1974; this version produced 84 kilonewtons (19,000 lbf) in afterburner. The Mirage 2000 itself was powered by two versions of the M53 – the M53-5, which equipped initial operational aircraft, was rated at 88 kN (20,000 lbf) of thrust with afterburner. The definitive version of the engine, the M53-P2, which equipped the majority of the type, is rated at 65 kN (15,000 lbf) in dry thrust and 95 kN (21,000 lbf) in afterburner.
The Mirage 2000 is equipped with built-in twin DEFA 554 autocannon (now GIAT 30–550 F4) 30 mm revolver-type cannons with 125 rounds each. The cannons have selectable fire rates of 1,200 or 1,800 rounds per minute
The first aircraft entered service in July 1984. The first operational squadron was formed during the same year, the 50th anniversary of the French Air Force. A total of 124 Mirage-2000Cs were obtained by the AdA.
French Mirage 2000s were used during the Gulf War where they flew high altitude air defence for USAF U2 spy aircraft, as well as in UN and NATO air operations during the Bosnian War and the Kosovo War. During Operation Deliberate Force, on 30th August 1995, one Mirage 2000D was shot down over Bosnia by a 9K38 Igla shoulder-launched missile fired by air defence units of the Army of Republika Srpska, prompting efforts to obtain improved defensive systems. Both pilots were captured.
French Mirage 2000Ds later served with the International Security Assistance Force during the conflict in Afghanistan in 2001–2002, operating in close conjunction with international forces and performing precision attacks with laser-guided bombs. In the summer of 2007, after the Dassault Rafale fighters had been removed from the theater of operations, three French Mirage 2000s were deployed to Afghanistan in support of NATO troops.
The Mirage 2000 is being replaced in French service by the Dassault Rafale, which became operational with the French Air Force in June 2006.
French Mirage 2000s were committed to enforcing the no-fly zone in Libya as part of Opération Harmattan in 2011. On 14th April 2018, four French Mirage 2000-5Fs participated in a joint military operation against the Syrian government with the UK and U.S. during the Syrian Civil War.
Egypt became the first export customer of the Mirage 2000 when it ordered 20 aircraft in December 1981. The $890 million order encompassed 16 single-seat Mirage 2000EMs and 4 two-seat Mirage 2000BMs, as well as options for 20 more aircraft. The aircraft were delivered between June 1986 and January 1988. One was lost in a training accident. Egypt originally planned to buy another squadron of Mirage-2000 fighters but financial problems prevented this, instead Egypt signed a contract with France to upgrade the existing fighters which were fitted with new ECM systems.
The sale of US F-16s to Pakistan prompted India to enter talks with France regarding the purchase of the Mirage 2000. In October 1982, the country placed an order with Dassault for 36 single-seat Mirage 2000Hs and 4 twin-seat Mirage 2000THs (with H standing for “Hindustan”). Previously, negotiations were underway for a purchase of up to 150 aircraft, which would have paved the way for joint production with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. In any case, the number of aircraft ordered was too small for such an arrangement. India nevertheless had the option to produce a number of Mirage 2000s under license that was later scrapped due to the country’s close relationship with the Soviet Union. India also purchased ATLIS II pods and laser-guided weapons for the Mirage, which the IAF had named the “Vajra” (Sanskrit: वज्र, for Lightning, Thunderbolt).
With the delivery of the first seven aircraft on 29th June 1985 to No. 1 Squadron, the Indian Air Force (IAF) became the first foreign user of the type. The service’s early aircraft were powered by the Snecma M53-5 engine (and so were designated Mirage 2000H5 and Mirage 2000TH5), which were quickly replaced by the more-powerful M53-P2 engine. No. 1 Squadron formally converted to the type in January 1986; within twelve months of the first delivery, the IAF had received all 40 aircraft ordered. However, the delivery schedule had in fact been delayed. In addition, with the various accidents that occurred, another eight single-seat and one two-seat aircraft were ordered in 1986 as attrition replacement and maintenance reserves. As such, it was not until 1990 that full unit establishment was achieved.The Mirage 2000 would encounter other issues; during the first decade of service, the fleet suffered from operational and maintenance issues. The Indian government’s Comptroller and Auditor General reported in 1995 that there was a delay in the construction of overhaul facilities and a shortage of spare parts, and that as a result the fleet could not meet its required flying hours. Compounding the issue was a lack of Mirage pilots.
In 1999, when the Kargil War broke out, the Mirage 2000 performed remarkably well during the whole conflict in the high Himalayas, even though the Mirages supplied to India had limited air interdiction capability and had to be heavily modified to drop laser-guided bombs as well as conventional unguided bombs. Armed with Paveway LGBs, the aircraft were involved in the destruction of enemy command bunkers. During Operation Safed Sagar from June–July 1999, two Mirage squadrons flew a total of 514 sorties. No. 1 Squadron flew air defence and strike escort missions, while No. 7 Squadron conducted 240 strike missions during which it dropped 55,000 kg (121,000 lb) of ordnance.
The impressive service of the Mirage 2000 in 1999 prompted the IAF to consider the acquisition of a further 126 aircraft. Instead, the Mirage 2000-5 became a contender for the IAF’s Indian MRCA competition in competition with the Mikoyan MiG-35, F-16 Fighting Falcon and JAS 39 Gripen. In 2004, the Indian government approved purchase of ten Mirage 2000Hs, featuring improved avionics, particularly an upgraded RDM 7 radar; they were delivered in 2007 for a total of 50 aircraft. Dassault would replace the Mirage 2000 with the Rafale as its contender as the Mirage 2000 production line was to be closed.
In 2004, when India made its third order for the type, the government announced its intention to upgrade its existing Mirage 2000s. After a period of protracted negotiations for the next several years during which India and Dassault came close to signing a contract several times, India in July 2011 approved a $2.2 billion upgrade package for its Mirage 2000s. Worth some $43 million per aircraft, the upgrade would see the fleet be upgraded to Mirage 2000-5 Mk. 2 standard, with provisions made for the use of a night vision-capable glass cockpit, upgraded navigation and IFF systems, advanced multi-mode multi-layered radar, and fully integrated electronic warfare suite, among other updates. In addition, the fleet’s inventory of Super 530D and Magic II missiles would be replaced by MICA, an order for which was placed in 2012. The first of the two IAF Mirages sent to France to be upgraded made its first flight in October 2013, marking the start of a test campaign that would encompass 250 flights, culminating in the handover of the first aircraft, redesignated Mirage 2000I, in March 2015. The new jets were redesignated Mirage 2000I for the single-seat version and Mirage 2000TI for the twin-seat version.
One two-seat trainer crashed on 25th February 2012. Another two-seater crashed on 5th March 2012.
In May 1983, the UAE placed an order for 36 Mirage 2000 aircraft. The order consisted of 22 single-seat Mirage 2000EAD, eight unique single-seat reconnaissance variants designated Mirage 2000RAD and six Mirage 2000DAD trainers, which collectively are known as SAD-8 (Standard Abu Dhabi). The order specified an Italian-made defensive avionics suite that delayed delivery of the first of these aircraft until 1989.
In November 1998, the UAE signed a $3.2 billion contract that consisted of an order for 30 Mirage 2000-9s as well as the deal to upgrade 33 of the surviving SAD-8 aircraft up the new standard. The contract was later amended such it would encompass 32 new-built aircraft–20 single-seater Mirage 2000-9 and 12 two-seater 2000-9Ds–and 30 upgrade kits for original aircraft. The aircraft were equipped with a classified countermeasures system designated IMEWS. Although deliveries were scheduled for 2001, the first aircraft arrived in the spring of 2003.
The UAE’s Mirage 2000-9s are equipped for the strike mission, with the Shehab laser targeting pod (a variant of the Damocles) and the Nahar navigation pod, complementing the air-to-ground modes of the RDY-2 radar. They are also equipped with a classified countermeasures system designated “IMEWS”, which is comparable to the ICMS 3. Emirati Mirage 2000s are armed with weapons such as the PGM 500 guided bomb and the “Black Shaheen” cruise missile, which is basically a variant of the MBDA Apache cruise missile. All 30 survivors of this first batch have been extensively refurbished and upgraded, bringing them to the same standard as Mirage 2000-9.
UAE Mirage 2000s flew in the Gulf War of 1991, but saw little action. Six Mirage 2000s were to participate in the enforcement of the no-fly zone over Libya. As part of the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen on 14 March 2016, a United Arab Emirates Mirage 2000-9D crashed in the southern Yemeni city of Aden during a combat operation in the early morning hours, killing its two pilots. The Arab coalition claims the Mirage crashed due to a technical fault. Other sources reported that the Mirage 2000-9D was shot down by Yemeni Al-Qaeda militants using a Strela-2 MANPADS while flying low.
In July 1985, Greece signed a contract for 40 Mirage 2000s comprising 36 single-seat aircraft and 4 two-seat trainers. The order came as part of a larger defence acquisition programme that saw the country, for political reasons, proceed with an order for the F-16. The $1.38 billion Mirage contract also consisted of weapons and equipment, as well as industrial offsets that permitted HAI to produce the M53-P2 engines. The first aircraft were delivered in June 1988 and the last, by the end of 1989. They featured an “ICMS mk1” defensive countermeasures suite (DCS), an updated version of the standard Mirage 2000C DCS, characterized by two small antennas near the top of the tailfin. Initially armed with R.550 Matra Magic-2 missiles. During the “Talos” modernisation project of the 1990s, carried out by Hellenic Aerospace Industry and supervised by Dassault and Thompson-CSF, the aircraft received: a vastly improved RDM-3 radar set; the ICMS 1 DCS; the ability to carry the Super-530D medium-range missile and the AM39 Exocet Block II anti-ship missile. After “Talos”, the aircraft were renamed Mirage-2000EGM/BGM.
In August 2000, Greece placed a $1.1 billion order for a batch of 15 new Mirage 2000-5 Mk. 2 fighters, and had 10 existing Mirage 2000EGMs upgraded to Mirage 2000-5 Mk. 2 standard. The upgrade meant the addition of the RDY-2 radar and ICMS-3 DCS, and the ability to deploy SCALP cruise missiles and both versions of the MICA instead, an order for which was placed. All Greek machines (Mk 2s and EGMs) feature the TOTEM-3000 INS of the Mk2 instead of the Uliss-52 and have hose-and-drogue aerial refueling capability. The only visual difference between the Mirage 2000-5 Mk 2 and the existing Mirage 2000EGM/BGMs is a fixed IFR probe near the canopy.
On 8th October 1996, seven months after the escalation of the dispute with Turkey over the Imia/Kardak islands, after interception by Greek aircraft, a Turkish F-16D jet crashed into the Aegean Sea. The Turkish pilot died, while the co-pilot ejected and was rescued by Greek forces. In August 2012, after the downing of a RF-4E on the Syrian Coast, Turkish Defence Minister İsmet Yılmaz stated that the Turkish F-16D was shot down by a Greek Mirage 2000 with an R.550 Magic II in 1996 after reportedly violating Greek airspace near Chios island. Greece denies that the F-16 was shot down. Both Mirage 2000 pilots reported that the F-16 caught fire and they saw one parachute.
On 12th April 2018, a Greek Mirage 2000-5, part of a two-ship formation, crashed into the Aegean Sea north or the Skyros air base after being scrambled to intercept two Turkish F-16s violating Greek airspace. When the Mirage pair arrived in the area, the Turkish jets had already left. The Greek pilot died in the crash which was attributed to Saharan dust in the air; both Mirage pilots were flying low in poor visibility.
In response to mainland China’s purchase of the Su-27, the Republic of China (Taiwan) entered into talks with the US and France about the possible purchase of new fighters. While the US would oppose Taiwan’s acquisition of the Mirage 2000 and instead pressure it to procure the F-16, in November 1992, the Republic of China Air Force became the first customer for the Mirage 2000-5. The order for 48 single-seat Mirage 2000-5EIs and 12 Mirage 2000-5DI trainers was condemned by China. The aircraft order also included 480 Magic short-range air-to-air missiles, 960 MICA intermediate-range air-to-air missiles, auxiliary fuel tanks, ground support equipment, and monitoring equipment; total costs amounted to US$4.9 billion, of which $2.6 billion was for the aircraft. The MICA missile provides the Mirage with a degree of BVR capability needed for its role as front-line interceptor. In addition, a set of ASTAC electronic intelligence (ELINT) pods was ordered. A number of centerline twin gun pods with DEFA 554 cannons were also acquired and fitted on the two-seaters, as they do not have an internal gun armament.
Taiwanese Mirage 2000s were delivered from May 1997 to November 1998, and are based at Hsinchu AB. The RoCAF’s Mirages have suffered from low operational readiness and high maintenance costs; the harsh environment and high operational tempo had caused higher-than-expected wear and tear. After the presence of cracks in the blades of the aircraft’s engines were detected in 2009, Dassault worked with Taiwanese authorities to successfully rectify the issue and provided compensation for the engine damage. By the following year, normal training hours of 15 per month had resumed and the fleet’s operational readiness had been restored, after having reportedly dropped to 6 hours per month due to the engine troubles. In addition to this issue, there were considerations of mothballing the entire Mirage fleet due to its high maintenance costs. Although the aircraft’s maintenance supplies cost more than those of the Republic’s AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-kuo and the Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon, the fleet was reportedly still being maintained adequately because of its popularity. Yet plans to upgrade the fleet had not been carried out as costs for doing so in France would be very high.
In 1994, Qatar became the second export customer for the Mirage 2000-5 as it ordered twelve aircraft to replace its Mirage F1EDAs. Designated Mirage 2000-5DAs, the aircraft ordered consisted of nine single-seaters and three two-seaters, and the first delivery was made in September 1997. Qatar also purchased the MICA missile and the Apache stand-off cruise missile. The aircraft would be used sparingly, and by the mid-2000s, under pressure from the US to dispose of the aircraft and with most of the aircraft’s operational life still intact, Qatar offered to sell the aircraft to Pakistan and later India. Such a deal would not materialise. In March 2011, Mirage 2000s were deployed to an airbase on the Greek island of Crete as part of Qatar’s commitment to assist in the NATO-enforced no-fly-zone over Libya. The aircraft would soon jointly enforce the no-fly-zone along with French Mirage 2000-5 aircraft.
Dassault participated in a competition to replace the Brazilian Air Force’s aging Mirage IIIEBR/DBRs with a Brazilian-specific version of the Mirage 2000-9 that would have been developed in collaboration with Embraer designated Mirage 2000BR. However, due to Brazilian fiscal problems, the competition dragged on for years until it was suspended in February 2005. Instead, Brazil in July 2005 purchased 12 ex-French Air Force Mirage 2000 aircraft (ten “C” and two “B” versions), designated F-2000, for $72 million. Deliveries began in September 2006 and concluded on 27th August 2008 with the delivery of the last 2 aircraft. According to Journal of Electronic Defense, the figure was $200 million, which consisted of a significant number of Magic 2 air-to-air missiles, and the AdA would provide full conversion training in France and full logistical support. The ten single-seat fighters and two twin-seat combat-trainers were drawn from operational squadrons Escadon de Chasse 1/5 and 2/5, based at Orange AB, respectively. The first delivery was made September 2006 to 1º Grupo de Defesa Aérea (1º GDA – 1st Air Defence Group) based at Annapolis. They were primarily used in the air-defence role and were equipped with Matra Super 530D and Matra Magic 2. Brazil officially retired its fleet in December 2013, just before the maintenance contract with Dassault concluded.
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