New Delhi will try to conclude negotiations for the Indian Air Force’s purchase of 12 Mirage 2000-5 fighter aircraft from Qatar during the April 14-15 visit here by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, emir of Qatar.
The Cabinet Committee on Security gave clearance to the Defence Ministry March 29 to begin price negotiations with Qatar, a move prompted by the U.S. government’s decision to sell F-16s to India’s nuclear rival, Pakistan.
Indian Air Force (IAF) sources said the second-hand jets would cost around $30 million apiece. A new Mirage 2000-5 sells for about $90 million. The IAF has told the Indian government that the Qatar Mirages still have about 75 percent of their service life left.
The deal is expected to be inked in the next three to four months, said one Defence Ministry official, adding that some final details will be settled during the emir’s visit. The MoD official would not comment further on the pending sale. Ministry sources said price still must be finalized during the visit, and that the ministry is prepared to pay up to $38 million per plane.
A team of representatives from Mirage-maker Dassault Aviation, Saint Cloud, France, and the IAF has evaluated the Qatari Mirage 2000-5s, the sources said. Of the 12 aircraft, nine are single-seat Mirage 2000-5EDAs and three are two-seat Mirage 2000-5DDAs.
The IAF plans to increase its nuclear delivery system with the acquisition of these planes. The service’s Su-30MKI, Jaguar, MiG-27 and Mirage-2000H jets also can carry nuclear weapons. The Mirage 2000-5 could carry a nuclear warhead deep inside China with the help of an Il-78 aerial tanker the Air Force purchased from Uzbekistan.
An additional $200 million, however, will be needed by the service to install new-generation avionics and weapons, and to establish an infrastructure for their operation, the IAF sources said.
Qatar bought the 12 Mirage 2000-5s from Dassault in 1997, and is selling the planes as part of its overall move toward American weaponry, equipment and aircraft.
India has around 46 Mirage 2000-H aircraft and is awaiting delivery of another 10 ordered in 2001. The Mirage 2000-Hs are being maintained by Hindustan Aeronautics, Bangalore, and the IAF sources said the service is accustomed to flying the Mirage.
Bhim Singh, a retired Air Force wing commander, said the “French are a much easier arms supplier to deal with, though more pricey than the Russians, and they are more reliable in terms of offering support for spare parts and similar issues,” compared with Russia and the United States.