Even as the French Rafale fighter jet has caused a stir in the global arms export market, the European nation continues to back the aging Mirage 2000 aircraft and wants to get it up and running until the next decade.
The Directorate of Aeronautical Maintenance (DMAé) of the French Ministry of the Armed Forces’ awarded Dassault Aviation a long-term contract to support the Mirage 2000 fleet. The agreement, which runs for 14 years, covers all maintenance activities for the French Air and Space Force’s (FASF) Mirage 2000s until they are retired.
Following in the footsteps of the Rafale and ATL2 verticalized maintenance contracts, Dassault currently supports practically all of the equipment on the Mirage 2000 B/C, 5, and D models, including those with a mid-life update, which were previously covered by 15 distinct contracts.
However, engine maintenance and services are part of separate contracts. Dassault Aviation chairman and CEO Eric Trappier said: “This contract is in line with the DMAé’s strategy of verticalizing aeronautical maintenance, as called for by the French Minister of the Armed Forces, by assigning responsibilities for support to a single prime contractor.”
The agreement covers all electronic systems, especially those made by Thales. It also includes enhanced technical and logistical services, such as a one-stop logistics center at Luxeuil and Nancy Air Bases, as well as creating a presence of Dassault Aviation at the Atelier Industriel de l’Aéronautique.
“All stakeholders will have access to a Mirage 2000 aircraft support management information system derived from the OPTIMAL IS currently being developed for the Rafale under the RAVEL contract for maintenance activity management.
This digital continuity optimizes the consistency of reference documentation and the fluidity of exchanges and enables the company to meet its aircraft availability commitments over the long term,” according to Dassault.
India’s Fleet Of Mirage 2000s
India’s fleet of Mirage 2000 aircraft is currently being upgraded. In 2011, a major contract for the upgrade of 51 Mirage 2000s — used during the 2019 Balakot airstrikes — was inked.
The purpose of the upgrade is to keep the aircraft up to date by providing them with improved weaponry, new sensors, cutting-edge electronic warfare systems, and a life extension.
The manufacturer, Dassault Aviation, was to upgrade two aircraft in France and then two more in India, at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) plant in Bengaluru. The rest were to be updated by HAL through technology transfer.
The upgrade comprises a new mission computer with more memory, new radar, advanced navigation and electronic warfare systems, advanced communication and identification systems, a glass cockpit with two lateral displays, and helmet-mounted displays.
The program will take another 2-3 years to be completed. However, the upgrade of 51 Mirage 2000H multirole jets of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to the 2000-5 standard has been delayed by nearly three years. The delay appears to have been caused by a deadly accident in February 2019 involving an upgraded Mirage, as well as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
On August 31, the Indian Air Force struck a contract worth approximately Rs 300 crore with a French private enterprise for the purchase of phased-out Mirage 2000 aircraft to be used as spares.
Overall Upgrade Cost
The total cost of the Indian Mirage 2000 upgrade program is estimated to be more than Rs 17,000 crore, something which had caused quite a stir when it was announced in 2011.
This was due to the fact that the last batch of Mirage 2000 aircraft cost Rs 133 crore each. In 2013, then-Defense Minister A.K. Antony stated that the cost of upgrading each Mirage would be Rs 167 crore.
He contended that if an annual escalation rate of 3.5% is used, the cost of the aircraft purchased in 2000 would be Rs 195 crore in 2011, and hence the upgrade cost would be 85% of the aircraft cost.
While India signed a Rs 10,947 crore deal in 2011 that included both the French and HAL work share, it negotiated another deal in 2012 for the acquisition of MICA air-to-air missiles for Mirage fighters at an estimated value of around Rs 6,600 crore.