Images have emerged showing the process involved in recovering a French air force Dassault Mirage 2000D strike aircraft which crashed in Afghanistan late last month. The two-person crew ejected safely.

The 24 May incident represented France’s first loss of a fighter aircraft since it began its contribution to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission in 2001.

During a subsequent salvage operation, the aircraft was dragged from its fuel-contaminated resting place using a US Marine Corps M88 recovery vehicle, before its wings were removed using plastic explosives. Its fuselage was then lifted onto a flatbed truck.

Mirage 2000D chain - Sipa Press Rex Features 

Mirage 2000D drag - Sipa Press Rex Features

Mirage 2000D foam - Sipa Press Rex Features

Mirage 2000D hoist - Sipa Press Rex Features

All images © Sipa Press/Rex Features

The pictures confirm the downed aircraft as being Mirage 2000D 612. This had been delivered to the air force in 1994, as listed in Flightglobal’s MiliCAS database. Its loss reduces France’s active inventory of the type to 75 aircraft.

Operating out of Kandahar airfield, the aircraft had been airborne with a Mirage F1 on a convoy escort mission when they were called on to help Italian troops being fired on by insurgents. An investigation is continuing into what forced the crew to eject, with ground fire not having been ruled out.

After reaching the ground, the crew were observed by their wingman, and by a Royal Air Force General Atomics Reaper unmanned air vehicle before they were rescued.