Source : Indian Defence Analysis
Indian Air Force to procure more Mirage-2000 (trainers) from France
From Kargil war to Balakot strike the French origin Mirage 2000 remained IAF’s favourite option for the deep penetration strike. The French-built jet can be scrambled in less than six minutes making it India’s no-1 air warrior until Rafale joined the inventory. What exactly sets Mirage apart is its high drag and low wing loading, clubbed with a high percentage of thrust. The Mirage 2000 has a maximum speed of Mach 2.2 (2336 kmph) and can travel 1550 km with drop tanks. The plane weighs 7500 kg (dry) and has a total takeoff weight of 17000 kg. The flight height is capped at 59000 ft (17km). This gives the Mirage-2000 an advantage in quick operations. The Mirage 2000 has a fly-by-wire flight control system and has a Sextant VE-130 HUD, which displays data related to flight control, navigation, target engagement, and weapon firing. In terms of the armament, the Mirage 2000 can carry laser guided bombs, air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles and has a Thomson-CSF RDY (Radar Doppler Multi-target) radar on board.
Mirage 2000 Upgrade
The Mirage 2000’s was inducted into the Indian Airforce in 1982, to counter the American F-16s inducted by Pakistan. IAF purchased around 50 fourth-generation Mirage 2000 C and B fighters. In 2011, India signed a 2.4 billion USD deal with France to upgrade the existing Mirage-2000 jets to Mirage 2000-5 Mk. The upgrade includes a new mission computer with higher memory, new radar, advanced navigation and electronic warfare systems, advanced communication and identification systems. The work on avionics and systems was done by Thales, while for the missiles, a separate contract was given to MBDA to provide and integrate MICA air-to-air missiles. The contract with Dassault and Thales worth for $ 2.4 billion. A separate contract was signed with MBDA for 450 MICA missiles worth $ 1.23 billion.
Mica is a multi-mission air-to-air missile system – i.e., it can cope with both BVR and WVR combat situations and exhibits very high performance in both roles.
Importance of Mirage 2000 upgrade
The heart of the upgrade was Thales RDY 2 radar, which allowed for very long-range engagement of targets in the air, automatic tracking of targets, mapping of targets on the ground using Doppler beam-sharpening techniques, and the ability to track and engage targets which are moving on the ground.
The new helmet-mounted sights enabled pilots with a display inside their helmet. Pilots were able to see superimposed radar data without having to reference any of the displays inside the cockpit. In operational terms, this means that in the case of air combat, the pilot, who is looking through their helmet, can direct weapons by merely pointing their head in the direction of what needs to be hit as opposed to having to manoeuvre the entire jet in the direction of the target. Pilots need to just see target, lock on to it and launch weapons.
The Mirage 2000 features a new night vision compatible all-digital state-of-the-art glass cockpit with multi-colour, multi-function displays replacing bulky analogue gauges. The new cockpit is neater, more user-friendly and far simpler to maintain.
More Mirage 2000 for IAF
IAF intends to maintain the Mirage 2000 fleet in service till 2035. However, the Dassault Aviation has closed the production line for the fighter jet. Incidentally, India had twice missed out the opportunity to manufacture the plane in India. The Indian Air force has to resort to ‘Christmas Tree’ – a term used in the aviation industry for planes that get their parts from other aircraft. In September 2021, the Indian Airforce has acquired 24 second-hand Mirage 2000 fighters for a contract worth 27 million euros. These aircrafts will be scavenged to secure spare parts to maintain the existing Mirage fleets.
In March 2023, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has reported that IAF may intends to purchase additional Mirage 2000 trainer aircraft from France in order to maintain its fleet strength of 51.