India Keen On Mirage-2000, A Fighter Aircraft That ‘Shot Down’ Turkish F-16 & ‘Stunned’ Taiwan’s ‘Latest’ Vipers

Qatar recently offered India a dozen second-hand Mirage 2000 fighters. These jets have performed admirably against Pakistan in the Kargil War and the Balakot airstrikes and would be an ideal addition to the Indian Air Force, which is eager to replenish its dwindling number of fighter planes.  

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On June 21, 2024, a delegation from Qatar held discussions with Indian defense officials in Delhi regarding the sale of the 12 second-hand Mirage 2000-5s to the Indian Air Force (IAF).

An ANI report stated that while Qatar is offering them at an estimated cost of Rs. 5000 crores ($600M), India is keen to get them at a more reasonable price. The jets were presented along with engines and missiles for operational readiness.

Indian Defence officials told ANI that the Qatari side made a presentation regarding the current state of the aircraft. They added that they were in “very good condition and had a lot of life left in them.” The IAF is considering the offer, keeping in mind its compatibility with the Indian Mirage 2000s, as the Indian version is more advanced. However, since the engines of the Indian and Qatari jets are the same, it will be easier to maintain them.

The Indian Air Force has ample spares and equipment to maintain its aircraft, thanks to a deal with a French firm during the Covid period. On August 31, 2021, the IAF signed a deal worth Rs. 300 crores with a private French firm to purchase phased-out Mirage-2000s to be used as spares. The defense officials confirmed that the jets would be used for flying operations. If this deal is inked, it will take the number of Mirage 2000s in the IAF’s fleet to 60 and help to shore up the depleting numbers in its fleet.

Even after almost four decades in service, the Mirages are one of the mainstays of the IAF, with Gwalior as their home base. Before the induction of the Rafales, the Mirage-2000 was by far the most preferred and potent Indian jet for performing precision strikes deep in enemy territory. The French Mirages have been a reliant and battle-tested aircraft for India since their induction in 1985. With upgrades, the IAF will continue to use the jets until 2040.

One primary reason for the continued high-performance standards of the Mirage-2000 has been the smart upgrades. In 2011, India signed a deal worth $2.2 billion with French firm Thales to upgrade 51 Mirage 2000-H aircraft to 2000-5 Mk–2 standards.

The upgrades included improved avionics, a night vision-capable glass cockpit, integration of advanced electronic warfare suits, a more advanced radar (Thales RDY 2 radar), and the replacement of the Super 530D and R.550 Magic II missiles with the MICAs (Missile for Interception, for Combat and Auto-Defense) which are all-weather, fire-and-forget short and medium-range missiles. Earlier, the Mirage used Super 530D for BVR (Beyond Visual Range) targets and R. 550 Magic II missiles for close-range targets.

The IAF has always been full of praise for its most reliable plane. In 2019, Air Marshal R Nambiar (Retd), who flew Mirage 2000 sorties during the Kargil War, stated that the plane’s induction was a game-changer for the IAF in terms of accuracy, precision, and firepower. He added that in the Kargil War or the Balakot Airstrikes, the Mirage-2000 had always delivered a decisive victory to the nation.

France, too, has had success with the Mirage-2000. The jet performed with distinction in several countries: Egypt, Greece, Taiwan, Peru, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, and Qatar.

Mirage-2000: A Deadly War Machine

  • Balakot Airstrikes, 2019 & Kargil War, 1999

On February 26, 2019, 12 Indian Mirage 2000s struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) terror camp in Balakot, located in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan.

The Government of India released no official death toll, but the then Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh hinted there were 300 casualties in the operation. He cited the findings of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), which revealed that 300 mobile phones were active at the terror facility before the strike.

Kargil War 2.0: When IAF Mirage-2000 Fighters Pounded Pakistani Intruders 3 Years After 1999 India-Pak War

In the operation, the IAF preferred the Mirage-2000s over the more advanced Sukhoi-30s. As reported earlier by the EurAsian Times, there were several reasons for the decision.

First, the Su-30s have a large radar cross-section, making them easy for the enemy to detect. Second, the Mirages were compatible with the Israeli-made Spice 2000 bombs. The Spice 2000s are sophisticated, laser-guided, GPS-enabled systems that can pinpoint enemy installations from a distance.

Abhijit Iyer Mitra, a senior Indian defense analyst and a senior fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi, explained in depth the precision with which Indian Mirages carried out the strike on a popular YouTube channel.

“India had a very clear plan that they are going to use the best-known fighter in our arsenal in a record against their best fighter, the F-16. There are two things that happened. One is that several fighters went inside Pakistan’s borders, but they were not meant to hit things but to confuse radars… (they were) classic diversion tactics. The second, which is much more interesting, is how these planes actually managed to jam their way into Pakistani territory. They actually went about 80-100 km unchallenged inside Pakistan’s territory, dropped the bombs or several bombs (which we don’t know exactly) out there, and they had already come back to Indian territory before the Pakistanis realized what had happened….”

The IAF got actively involved in the Kargil War on May 25, 1999, after being given the clearance by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to attack positions held by the Pakistani Army and infiltrators.

Initially, the use of IAF Mig-21s and Mig-27s had failed to dislodge the heavily entrenched enemy positions. The IAF decided to pound enemy positions with its most lethal plane—the Mirage 2000—using laser-guided bombs on Pakistani positions: Tiger Hill, Tololing, Point 5140, and a Pakistani supply base in the Batalik sector.

Such was the precision with which the Mirage-2000 destroyed enemy positions and their supply lines that the Indian Army headquarters sent a message to the IAF that read, “You guys have done a wonderful job. Your Mirage boys, with their precision laser-guided bombs (LGB), targeted an enemy Battalion HQ in the Tiger Hill area with tremendous success. Five Pakistani officers were reported killed in that attack, and their Command and Control broke down — as a result of which our troops have walked over the entire Tiger Hills area. The enemy is on the run. They are on the run in other sectors also. At this rate, the end of the conflict may come soon.”

IAF Mirage-2000

In 2019, the then-IAF Chief, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa, who was the Commanding Officer of the ‘Golden Arrows 17 Squadron during the Kargil War, highlighted the success of the Mirages in carrying out deep precision strikes on enemy positions.

Addressing a press interaction in Gwalior, Dhanoa said, “Modification to the Mirage-2000 was in process and expedited.” He further revealed that the jets’ upgradation, including integration with targeting pods and 1000-pound laser-guided bombs, was completed in a “record time of 12 days.” He asserted that the deployment of the Mirage-2000 jets and the air support provided by the IAF to the Indian Army turned the tide of the Kargil War in favor of India.

Dhanoa added, “Tiger Hill was also a message at that particular time that no matter how small you are, no matter how precariously you are positioned, we will be able to get you and hit you.”

  • Greek Mirage 2000 ‘Shoots Down’ Turkish F-16

On November 8, 1996, a Greek Mirage-2000 fired an R.550 Magic II missile that shot down a Turkish F-16D over the disputed Aegean Sea near Chios Island. The aerial clash happened when two Turkish F-16s and four F-4s were on a Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) training mission over the Aegean Sea when they allegedly violated Greek airspace north of Chios Island.

Two Greek Mirage 2000s were dispatched to intercept the Turkish jets. Eventually, a dogfight ensued between a Greek Mirage and a Turkish F-16 in which the Greek jet allegedly struck the Turkish plane with an R.550 Magic II missile. The attack resulted in the death of the Turkish pilot while the co-pilot managed to eject and was rescued by the Greek forces.

Years later in 2012, the then Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz confirmed the incident. Greece denied the incident, as the two Greek pilots claimed that the F-16 caught fire on its own. To this day, the dead body of the pilot, Captain Nail Erdoğan, remains missing despite several months of efforts by the Turkish Navy.

For years, despite being fellow NATO members, ties between Greece and Turkey have been frosty due to disputes in the Aegean Sea and the ethnically partitioned island of Cyprus. The unfriendly ties are best described in an article published by the Greek Foreign Ministry titled “Issues of Greek—Turkish Relations.”

An excerpt from the article reads, “In the early 1970s, Türkiye initiated a systematic policy of contentions and claims against the sovereignty, the sovereign rights and jurisdictions of Greece. The goal of this newly formed policy against Greece has been the changing of the territorial status quo provided for in international treaties – the Treaty of Lausanne being pivotal among these – and the legal status of maritime zones and airspace as they derive from international law, i.e., the law of the sea and air (UNCLOS & Chicago Convention).”

“The initiation of this policy ushered in a new chapter of tension in Greek-Turkish relations that lasts to this day and was marked by the first claims on the Greek continental shelf, in 1973, and the first disputing of the extent of Greek national airspace, in 1975.

“The advent of this new Turkish policy coincided with the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in July 1974 and the subsequent Turkish occupation of the northern portion of Cyprus, which continues to this day, decisively impacting relations between the two countries and increasing tensions.” 

Such relations have often witnessed several instances of armed confrontation between the two states.

Speaking to ‘P Gurus,’ Abhijit Iyer Mitra mentioned the superiority of the Greek Mirage-2000s vis-à-vis the Turkish F-16s. He stated that the F-16s had gone up against the Mirage-2000s several times, and most of the time, the Mirage-2000 had overpowered the F-16.

As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, in 2021, Greece released a video of an aerial engagement between a Greek Mirage-2000 and a Turkish F-16 in 2020. It is said that the Greek plane challenged the Turkish jet as it was allegedly violating their airspace. The clip showed that the Turkish pilot was retreating after being confronted by the Greek plane and was seen maneuvering erratically. Greek Media reported that the Mirage had locked onto the Turkish plane when fleeing from the scene. The Mirage-2000 had an upper hand over the Turkish F-16.

  • Taiwan’s Mirage 2000 ‘Stuns’ F-16 Viper

According to a report published in Taiwan News, the annual military exchange between the French and Taiwanese Air Forces took place at the Chiashan Air Force Base in Hualien, Taiwan, on October 14, 2023.

File Image: F-16 Fighters

Mixed teams of French and Taiwanese pilots participated in the joint military exercise. The 17th Squadron of Taiwan’s 5th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) assumed the role of simulated enemy, engaging in aerial tactical combat and other war-like simulations.

The 5th TFW operates US F-16s and older F-5s. An anonymous Taiwanese official was quoted in a report, “The exercise aimed to enhance the aerial combat capabilities of the Taiwanese Mirage 2000 and the F-16V fighter pilots. The exchange provides an opportunity for the Taiwanese Air Force to review its deployment of Mirage fighter jets.”

The exercise produced startling results as four Mirage-2000s managed to gun down four F-16Vs of the 5th TFW. Quoting Lieutenant Colonel Zhuang Weibo, a report in CNA read, “Under the operation and good understanding of the Phantom pilots, only one Phantom aircraft was damaged, and all F-16Vs were killed.”

The result was significant, as the F-16 V, or the “Viper” version, is the most advanced variant of the F-16 fighter jet, which took its first test flight as recently as 2015. It has the sophisticated AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, an upgraded mission computer and architecture, and improvements to the cockpit.

On February 5, 2024, the $4.5 billion-worth “Peace Phoenix Rising” program to upgrade 139 Taiwanese F-16 A/B Block 20s to the latest F-16V (Block 70-72) was announced by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center of the US Air Force. While the upgrade was initially for 144 aircraft, there have been attrition losses since the initial request. The upgrade program began in 2016.

Additionally, Taiwan has signed a deal worth $8 billion to purchase 66 F-16V (Block 70-72) fighter jets from the US, the delivery of which is expected in the third quarter. Despite all the upgrades, the Mirage-2000s dominated the F-16s in the exercise, highlighting the fighter jet’s remarkable longevity and power.

  • Via: EurAsian Times Digital Desk
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