Thursday, 26 March 2015

IAF starts getting upgraded Mirage 2000 fighters




By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 26th March 15

Indian defence planners have breathed a sigh of relief as the first two Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage 2000 fighters being upgraded in France were handed over by Dassault and Thales to India’s ambassador in Paris, Arun Singh.

In July 2011, the IAF signed a contract to upgrade its entire fleet of 51 Mirage 2000 fighters. This would extend the life of the ageing fighters --- acquired in the mid-1980s to counter Pakistan’s new F-16s --- by another 15 years. The upgraded fighters are designated Mirage 2000I, while the twin-seat trainer version is designated Mirage 2000TI.

The Rs 12,100 crore contract has two components, the defence ministry told parliament on December 19, 2011: Euro 1,470 million (Rs 10,080 crore) would be paid to French vendor, Thales; while Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) would get Rs 2,020 crore.

That amounts to an upgrade cost per aircraft of Rs 237 crore.

With the Rafale contract in limbo, the upgrade of the IAF’s Mirage 2000 and Jaguar fighters has become vitally important. The IAF has just 35 squadrons now (with 16 operational fighters and two trainer aircraft in each), against the 42 squadrons authorized for defending the Pakistan and China borders.

The two fighters delivered today are likely to arrive in India in early April and join their respective squadrons. Two Gwalior-based IAF squadrons currently fly the Mirage-2000: Number 1 Squadron (Tigers), and Number 7 Squadron (Battle Axes).

Meanwhile, HAL is upgrading the next two Mirage 2000s at its Bengaluru facility, with Dassault and Thales providing “on-the-job training”. Dassault builds the airframe of the Mirage 2000, while Thales provides most of the avionics.

Business Standard toured the Mirage facility in HAL in January, and learned that the third and fourth upgraded fighter would be completed in September and November 2015 respectively. There are 120-130 technicians working in HAL’s Mirage 2000 upgrade and overhaul facility in Bengaluru.

HAL would upgrade the remaining 47 Mirage 2000s without assistance, fitting in upgrade kits provided by Dassault and Thales. This would take 7-10 years.

While the upgrade does not involve fitting a new engine, it includes extensive avionics upgrades. Thales is providing a new radar, mission computer and electronic warfare suite, said the French vendors in a statement today.

In place of the old analogue instruments in the cockpit, the pilots will now have an “all-glass cockpit”, with video displays of flight parameters and weapons aiming and operation. They will also have helmet-mounted sights, which allow pilots to aim weapons at targets merely by looking at them.

In a linked contract, the IAF has procured 490 MICA “beyond visual range” missiles from French company, MBDA, for Rs 6,600 crore.

The IAF places high confidence in its Mirage 2000, which have not just provided high serviceability rates but were also modified for delivering “precision-guided munitions”, or laser-guided smart bombs, during the Kargil conflict in 1999.

Alongside the upgrade, HAL is simultaneously overhauling its entire Mirage 2000 fleet, a year-long procedure that each fighter undergoes after flying 2000 hours or 13 years, whichever happens first. The entire Mirage 2000 fleet underwent a first round of overhaul from 1991-94. The second overhaul round began in 2009.

“We have developed a high degree of expertise in maintaining, overhauling and now upgrading the Mirage 2000”, said a HAL line manager. 

9 comments:

Raman said...

With the delays in the MMRCA procurement....why is the MoD delaying the Jaguar Darin III/F-125 Honeywell Engine Upgrade/PGM's/ASRAAM's etc.......it is really a low hanging fruit....can all be done in "Make in India" and pretty cost effective........no major Infrastructure/Training upgrades required etc......What do you think are the reasons for this delay ??

Anonymous said...

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The latest news is that the Army has
very cleverly asked for a STAY on AFT judgement by citing the Pakistani and Chinese Army practices
of having younger Commanders

Mahendra Singh said...

After including the cost of MICA, the upgrade cost is Rs. 345 crores per aircraft. A new Tejas costs only Rs. 162 crores! MiG 29 upgrade costs Rs. 82 crores per aircraft in spite of change of engines!

French surely know how to fleece the Indians!

Anonymous said...

MoD should have listened to IAF & bought 100 of these birds. It had the amount technology and performance for our environment. This would have avoided the big MMRCA saga going on.

Anonymous said...

If we have so much capability in terms of maintenance/ overhaul & upgrade, I wonder why IAF failed to buy second hand fighters to augment the delayed MRCA deal.

On the other aspect it is good to see IAF building AKASH numbers.. many squadrons of these along with few but potent aircraft would help us while we augment the fighter numbers.

People talk alot about AMCA.. I am more excited to see LCA Mark 2, I believe this itself when operational will give sleepless nights to our not so best friends :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Raman that The Jaguar re-Engine upgrade along with the Darin III standard should be pursued vigorously in order to give more teeth to the strike power of the IAF's Jaguar fleet.

Anonymous said...

NSR says...

I am defense and space engineer/scientist and it really baffles me about the Mirag-2000 upgrade and costs...

The engine is already 30+ years old...

Even if one stores it inside and maintains it, the engine will age and electronics will age and it will be in no shape to fly another 30 years as many people keeps talking...

I have a feeling that Dassault deliberately kept the engine out so that Indians would be shocked at the total cost of upgrade and back out...

I think pretty soon they will also fall from skies like Mig-21s and then IAF will press MoD for new engines...

Fighter jet engines wear out pretty fast due to high temperatures and harsh environmental effects on electronics...

Does the author or some one else has any idea how they keep running them for next 30 years?

They must hurry up and rope in Honeywell and other avionics manufacturers to upgrade Jaguar quickly so that it can stay relevant w.r.t. ground attack with precision weapons...

Ram Bharadwaj said...

Ajai, Was an re-engine of the Mirage -2k not part of this deal??

Anonymous said...

The NDA government from 1999-2004 should have given the nod for procuring 126 Mirage 2000-5 mk2 fighters in 2001-02 itself when the IAF wanted them.the deal if signed would have cost less than a third of would it would cost now if Rafale deal is sealed. after the pokharan tests in 1998 and resulting US sanctions the IAF would never ever have thought of considering the F-16 or even the Gripen . it was a mistake on part of the govt. not to accede to IAF's requirements. by 2006-07 all of these jets would have been inducted and now the IAF would have been mulling purchase of a lesser no. of Rafales or Typhoons to supplement the Mirage 2000s.