Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 Upgrade Progresses Despite Groundings

 - September 19, 2014, 8:53 AM
An upgrade to the Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 fleet is progressing, but a quarter of the unmodified aircraft are grounded for lack of spares. (Photo: Indian Air Force)

Although a $2.2 billion upgrade of India’s Dassault Mirage 2000 fighters is progressing, around a quarter of the fleet of 49 is grounded because a contract for spares has remained unsigned for years, AIN has learned from sources involved in the program.

“Bureaucratic holdups have caused delays. As a result, parts are being cannibalized and there are some aircraft [inactive] since 2010. Life of some parts, especially avionics, is expiring,” said an engineer not willing to be identified. Repairs of the Mirages are carried out at the base repair depot in Gwalior in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. The depot also does material planning and storage of primarily third- and fourth-line spares. The Indian Air Force declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the upgrade to the 2000-5 standard is progressing.  Two aircraft have completed flight trials and are awaiting certification. Delivery to HAL is expected within two months. The third aircraft is expected to fly soon. Another two will be retrofitted in Bangalore byHindustan Aeronautics (HAL). The remaining Mirages will be reassembled in India with tooling to be supplied by Thales. While a timeline of seven years has been given to upgrade all the aircraft, a defense consultant characterized as "ambitious" any projection for HAL to produce six a year. However, HAL chairman RK Tyagi told AIN, “We can produce up to 10 a year.” The HAL team has already gone to France for training. Test benches in Gwalior will require upgrading, for which bids have not as yet been released.

The new capabilities include longer-range detection and weapon firing against multiple targets and an extended operating envelope that will allow a border-protection mission. The multitrack RDY-3 radar equipment on the Indian Mirage is the same generation the French air force uses on the Mirage 2000D, with range increased to 50 nm from the existing RDM radar's 40 nm.

India is ordering 164 Litening 2 targeting pods from Israel's Rafael for the upgraded Mirages, as well as for Su-30 MKIs. The nation has also cleared a proposal to buy more than 400 MICA short- and medium-range air defense missiles. These will replace the Magic II short-range infrared missiles and Super 350 MRAAM on the Mirages.