The Indian Air Force (IAF) is looking to replace the two Mirage 2000 trainer aircraft, which crashed earlier this year.
While the case for the acquisition of the two single-engine trainers is still at a preliminary stage, it is understood that the IAF, ‘desirous’ of getting their ‘numbers up from 49 to 51’ again, is planning to make a pitch for the aircraft to the Ministry of Defense.
Sources told StratPost that the imperative for the purchase was made all the more compelling because the two aircraft that crashed were trainer versions. Until the crashes, the IAF had 10 trainer aircraft, spread over each of the three IAF Mirage 2000 squadrons. Now down to eight, these aircraft are essential for training fresh pilots on the aircraft type. With the shortfall caused by the two crashes, the IAF has decided to ask for the purchase of the two aircraft.
Since, the aircraft is no longer manufactured by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), Dassault, the IAF is planning to identify a foreign air force operating the aircraft, to which the sale can be proposed.
Although the aircraft is operated by nine foreign air forces, only the French Armée de l’Air, and the air forces of the United Arab Emirates, Greece and Taiwan operate them in any significant numbers.
The IAF has plans to operate its Mirage 2000 fleet over at least the next two decades. Last year, India ordered a USD 2.4 billion upgrade package from Dassault and Thales for its Mirage 2000 aircraft, to match the Mirage 2000-5 configuration, followed by a separate weapons package worth USD 1.23 billion for 450 MBDA MICA air-to-air missiles.
Keeping it French, the Dassault-built successor to the Mirage 2000, the Rafale, was selected earlier this year, as the lowest technically qualified bidder in the IAF contest for an estimated USD 20 billion order for 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), beating the Eurofighter Typhoon on price.
The other competitors, the Russian MiG-35, the Swedish Saab Gripen, and US aircraft, the Lockheed Martin F-16 and the Boeing F/A-18, were eliminated from the contest after the technical trials.