IAF Mirage 2000i of France-based Dassault Aviation, the multi-role, single-engine fighter jet performed exceptionally during the 2019 Balakot operation
In an attempt to strengthen its fleet of fourth-generation fighters, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to acquire 24 second-hand Mirage 2000 fighters, made by Dassault Aviation. The IAF will also secure parts for its two existing squadrons of the aircraft.
According to a Hindustan Times report, people in the know have said that IAF has initiated a contract worth €27 million with the manufacturer to buy the fighters, eight of which are in ready-to-fly condition.
The report also revealed that these aircraft, which will cost €1.125 million each, will soon be shipped to India in containers.
The Mirage fighters
The Mirage-2000 is undoubtedly one of the IAF’s most versatile and deadliest aircraft and it was first commissioned in 1985.
Soon after inducting the Mirage, IAF gave it the name — Vajra — meaning lightning thunderbolt in Sanskrit. It is developed by Dassault Aviation and took its first flight in 1978 and was inducted into the French Air Force in 1984.
India had placed an initial order of 36 single-seater Mirage-2000 and four twin-seater Mirage 2000 in 1982 as an answer to Pakistan buying United States-made F-16 fighter jets by Lockheed Martin.
The Mirage-2000 played a decisive role in the 1999 war of Kargil and turned it in India’s favour.
In 2004, the government placed an additional order of 10 Mirage-2000 planes taking the total tally to 50 jets.
It was in 2011 that another contract was signed that saw the Mirage 2000 jets being upgraded to Mirage 2000-5 Mk — increasing the life of the planes, which will now serve till 2030.
The Mirage 2000 is powered by a single shaft engine called SNECMA M53, making it light and simple.
The plane weighs 7,500 kg (dry) and has a total takeoff weight of 17,000 kg.
The fighter jet can attain a maximum speed of Mach 2.2 (2,336 kmph) and can travel 1,550 km with drop tanks. It can touch a maximum height of 59000 feet.
In comparison, India’s other fighter and more advanced fighter jet — the Russia-made Sukhoi Su30MKI has a speed of 2,120 kmph (Mach 2), slower than the Mirage-2000 and is heavier too. This gives the Mirage-2000 an advantage in quick operations.
The Mirage 2000 comes loaded with a fly-by-wire flight control system and Sextant VE-130 HUD, which displays data related to flight control, navigation, target engagement, and weapon firing.
The Mirage 2000 is capable of carrying laser-guided bombs, air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles. It also boasts of a Thomson-CSF RDY (Radar Doppler Multi-target) radar onboard.
Apart from India, Mirage 2000 is used by France, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Peru, Taiwan, Peru, Greece and Brazil.
Used in Balakot strikes
On 26 February 2019, 20 fully armed Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft entered Pakistani airspace and dropped 1,000-kg laser-guided bombs on Jaish-e-Mohammed terror launch pads across the Line of Control.
The Balakot strike was the first-ever air operation done by India in Pakistan beyond the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The Balakot airstrike was New Delhi’s retaliation for the terrorist attack in Pulwama, where a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy was attacked and 42 personnel were killed.
Mirage 2000 vs F-16
Following the Balakot airstrike, there were many who questioned which was the better fighter between the Mirage 2000 and Pakistan’s F-16 Fighting Falcons, what they term is their deadliest arrow in its quiver.
When it comes to speed, the Mirage 2000 can reach top speeds of up to Mach 2.2 or 2,336 km/hour at high altitude. On the other hand, the F-16 Falcon — manufactured by General Dynamics – now Lockheed Martin — for the US Air Force is comparatively slower. It can reach a maximum speed of over Mach 2.
The Mirage 2000 boasts of nine hardpoints for weapons carriage and a combat range of 1,850 km. The F-16, however, boasts more weapon storage capacity than the Mirage.
In terms of climbing speed, the Mirage wins over the F-16. While the Mirage has a maximum climbing speed of 60,000 feet per minute, the F-16 reportedly manages 50,000 feet per minute.
Additionally, the F-16 has a combat radius going up to 1,370 km with two bombs weighing around 907 kg each while the Mirage can go 1,475 km with four 250-kg bombs.