The Indian government has given the Air Force the go-ahead to buy 12 used Mirage 2000-5 multirole aircraft from Qatar.
The service has been lobbying the government for years to upgrade its aging aircraft fleet. This decision will further that cause as well as keep these like-new Dassault-built aircraft out of the hands of neighbor and nuclear rival Pakistan, which also was negotiating with Qatar, an Indian Ministry of Defence official said.
Air Force sources said the aircraft — nine single-seat Mirage-2005 EDAs and three two-seat DDAs — cost about $35 million each. An additional $200 million will be needed to install new-generation avionics and weapons and to establish an infrastructure for operations, the sources said.
The Indian Air Force plans to increase its fleet of aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons. The Mirage 2000-5 can carry a nuclear warhead deep inside China with the help of the Il-78 refueler the Indian Air Force has purchased from Uzbekistan. Service officials said this will serve as an offensive system as well as a deterrent.
The Mirage acquisition will be the first major deal inked by the new United Progressive Alliance government. It likely will be finalized by year’s end, with deliveries beginning in March, the ministry official said.
Qatar bought the aircraft from Dassault Aviation, Saint Cloud, France, in 1997, but is phasing out the aircraft in its shift to U.S. equipment, he said.
India also operates 35 Mirage 2000H fighters, which are maintained by Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
Pakistan operates Dassault’s Mirage-III and F-16 Falcon aircraft, acquired from the United States in the 1980s.
The outgoing National Democratic Alliance government initiated talks with Qatar for the Mirage purchase, and the Air Force sent delegations to Qatar last January and July to inspect the aircraft.