10 more Mirage-2000 for India



NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet has given its go-ahead for the purchase of 10 Mirage-2000s multi-role aircraft from France, an Indian Air Force spokesman said on Monday. The Cabinet approval was accorded last week.

``These aircraft are not meant for augmenting the existing fleet. These are to make up for attrition,'' the spokesman said. The Rs 1,500-crore deal, to be signed soon, will also include purchase of spares.

Defence ministry sources said the Centre had been assured by the French that the aircraft would be newly-built. The aircraft being purchased are the earlier variants Mirage-2000H and not the latest Mirage 2000-5. However, these 10 aircraft are likely to be fitted with refuelling probes, which is not available in the the present IAF Mirages. While buying the first lot of the MiGs in the mid-1980s, New Delhi had paid extra money to get removed the refuelling probes as the IAF did not envisage air-to-air refueling.

The Mirage-2000s, which are equipped with both laser and TV- guided bombs, were pressed into service for the first time during the Kargil war. They proved effective in neutralising several Pakistani army positions, including Tiger Hill and Mantho Dalo.

The IAF acquired 49 Mirage-2000s in June 1984. Since then it has lost four of them, the last one in 1994. Mirage-2000s are the only fly-by-wire multi-role aircraft with the IAF and make up two squadrons. Besides strike capability, they are also equipped with beyond visual range air-to-air missiles for intercepting enemy aircraft and sophisticated electronic warfare equipment. The Sukhoi-30K, purchased in November 1996, are still a long way from achieving both fly-by-wire and multi-role status.

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