March 26, 2015
The first two Indian air force Mirage 2000s to be upgraded were handled by the Dassault Flight Centre at Istres air base in France. (photo: Dassault Aviation)
In a ceremony at Istres airbase in southern France on March 25, the Indian Ambassador to France accepted the first two Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage 2000 fighters to be upgraded by Dassault and Thales. It has been agreed that the rest of the IAF fleet will be upgraded by HAL in Bangalore – a fact that the leadership of Dassault and Thales were keen to point out, in view of the long delays in sealing a licensed production deal for the Rafale. After a two-year development phase, the first flight of the upgraded Mirage 2000 I/TI took place at Istres on October 5, 2013.
Today’s ceremony is the result of the excellent understanding between the Indian and French partners and of our commitment to India,” said Eric Trappier, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation. “The Rafale aircraft has been chosen by India after a comprehensive selection process, and exclusive negotiation is ongoing. The Rafale is the next logical step. HAL and Indian industries will contribute to the ‘Make in India’ policy by developing and manufacturing the aircraft locally. The Rafale will fulfill all of the operational requirements of the Indian Air Force and the industrial requirements of India’s economic policy, as the Mirage 2000 continues to do so,” Trappier added.
Pierre Eric Pommellet, executive v-p, Defence Missions Systems for Thales, made similar comments. “Thales has been operating in India since 1953 and employs 300 people all over the country. We have developed a strong local supply chain,” he said. Thales is supplying the radar, the mission computer, and the electronic warfare system for what the French describe as a “technologically ambitious” upgrade of the Mirage 2000.
However, AIN has been told that the Mirage 2000 upgrade facility at Bangalore has not yet been established, possibly because of a lack of government funding. Moreover, once established, the facility is only scheduled to upgrade four aircraft per year. The IAF has 49 Mirage 2000s remaining in the fleet from the 52 supplied – three have crashed. It will therefore take 12 years to complete the work, yet the Mirages are scheduled to be phased out in 2030.
Meanwhile, there are currently a large number of Mirages grounded because HAL has not signed a spares-supply contract. AIN has learned that there is a backlog of 12 aircraft awaiting second-line maintenance at HAL, and that other Mirages are being cannibalized for spares at the operational bases.