The Indian Air Force’s Mirage 2000 fighters are set to get more brawn, with the government approving a proposal to arm the French-origin fighter with air-to-air missiles that can engage targets beyond visual range (distances of 40 km and above).
The cabinet committee on security, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on Wednesday paved the way for buying 490 Mica missiles from European defence major MBDA Missile Systems at a cost of Euro 950 million (R6,650 crore).
The approval comes on the heels of India inking a $2.4 billion (RS10,900 crore) deal with French defence firms Thales and Dassault Aviation last July for upgrading 51 Mirage 2000 fighter planes. The air force inducted the fighters in the mid-1980s.
The firms will equip the fighters with new avionics, radars, electronic warfare suites, glass cockpits and helmet-mounted displays. The air force expects the upgrade programme — India’s costliest ever — to extend the life of the multi-role fighters by 20 years.As part of the Mica missile deal, MBDA will have to invest 30% of the value of that contract (Rs1,995 crore) in India through purchases and transfer of technology. The defence ministry’s offset policy makes it compulsory for foreign vendors to make such investment in India if a military deal is worth more than Rs300 crore.
MBDA has also received a request for information for arming the Sukhoi-30 MKI fighters with Brimstone air-to-surface missile and Meteor, a beyond visual range missile.