Friday, July 15, 2011

Indian MoD approves $2.4 billion Mirage-2000 upgrade contract

With another recently approved multi-billion dollar defence contract, India is giving its armed forces modernisation efforts a significant push. According to AFP, Defence Secretary Shri Pradeep Kumar approved the offer by leading French defence companies Dassault and Thales, as well as by the European MBDA group, to upgrade India’s ageing fleet of Mirage 2000 ‘Vajra’ fighter aircraft at a cost of some $2.4 billion. Although the contract has not been officially confirmed, the Press Trust of India news agency reported that the contract was approved on Wednesday by the Indian cabinet committee on security. In line with the Indian government’s major efforts to modernise and increase the quantity of military equipment, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) agreed to move ahead with this programme, after being delayed in 2006, in particular, due to price issues.

Operated by the Indian Air Force (IAF) since the mid-1980s, the 51 French-built fighter aircraft are a major asset for the country’s armed forces, providing important air-to-ground strike capabilities, including nuclear strikes. However, having performed well in the 1999 Kargil War and having been in service for more than 25 years, the aircraft urgently require major retrofits to effectively continue its service with the IAF. Despite the aircraft’s age, its role was recently underlined by the former IAF Air Chief Marshal, Fali Major, who told the Hindustan Times: “The Mirage 2000 is the most important aircraft in the air force’s fleet, after the Sukhoi-30.” He further emphasised that the upgrade was “crucial” to closing the capabilities gap until the aircraft from the MMRCA programme are introduced into service.

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