France has offered to upgrade India's 51 frontline Mirage 2000 fighters in a "compressed delivery time-frame", which could prove a boon to New Delhi in the backdrop of Indian Air Forces' force levels depleting to an alarming all time low of 32 Squadrons.
And as part of the upgradation deal almost at the final stages of conclusion, the new Mirages would come armed with longer range Air to Air Missiles to enhance the fighters capability in beyond visual range combat.
The fighters would be armed with new MICA missiles with a range of taking on targets almost 40 kms away, almost double the range of present missiles on Indian fighters.
"The time scale of upgraded fighter deliveries can be compressed and worked out according to IAFs needs," Francois Quentin, senior vice president of the European Aerospace, Electronics and services major, Thales, told visiting Indian newsmen here.
The Paris-headquartered company is leading the consortium of four companies comprising Dassault, the manufacturer of the fighter, Snecma, the engine makers and European Missile leader MBDA, which would undertake the Mirage upgrade, estimated to cost over 1.5 billion Euros.
India and France have been in negotiations for the past two years on the Mirage upgrade and the deal almost now in final stages could be the last major defence contract to be concluded by the Government before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Under the proposed deal, for which technical and weapon proposals have been finalised, 51 Mirages of the IAF will get a fresh lease of life for another 20-25 years, get an extended range of almost 800 kms without refuelling and longer range detection capability to confront and take on four to five targets simultaneously both on ground and in air.