Why Indian Rafale Jets Will Be Partnered By Mirage 2000s Instead Of Su-30MKIs In A Conflict With China?

The fleet of Mirage 2000 has twice proven its might against Pakistan during the 1999 Kargil war and in 2019 when it struck alleged terror camps in Balakot. Will it be able to do so with China if the ongoing standoff turns into a more serious confrontation?

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India and China on Wednesday held the 5th round of diplomatic talks and again agreed on the need to achieve a “consensus” to disentangle from the border. Earlier, the 19th meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs was seen as beneficial but was not able to achieve a breakthrough.

India’s fleet of Mirage 2000s are one of the most battle-proven jets that have time and again demonstrated their capabilities, be it the Kargil war or to strike out Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror camps in Balakot, last year.

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While the Indian Air Force (IAF) possesses the much more advanced Russian-origin Sukhoi Su-30MKI, the French origin Mirage 2000s were used for their “pinpoint accuracy” to hit targets. 

Mirage 2000 vs Su-30 MKI

Mirage 2000 deal was signed under the Rajiv Gandhi government after Pakistan bought the American F-16. Initially, India placed an order of 36 single-seater Mirage-2000 and 4 twin-seater Mirage 2000 in 1982 but after seeing their success in the Kargil war of 1999, when the fighters were proved to be “game changers” as described by an IAF officer, the Indian government placed another order for 10 more fighters which took the total strength to 50.

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The French fighters entered service over three decades ago although they received upgrades to increase their life. The upgrade will potentially make them the IAF’s longest-serving fighters retiring in 2040. 

Mirage 2000 is a single-engine jet manufactured by Dassault Aviation. It can be armed with missiles including stealthy MBDA MICA missile, available in both radar-guided and infrared-guided variants.  A single Mirage 2000 can carry 20 kilotons nuclear bomb, which is more powerful than the 15 kilotons dropped in Hiroshima. 

On the other hand, India’s Su-30 MKI is more advanced than the Mirage 2000. With enhanced avionics, the fighters were jointly developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the IAF. The first order was placed in 1996 with Sukhoi and in 2000 HAL signed a contract for licensed production of the customised fighter Su-30 MKI. 

The Rafale is one of the most expensive aircraft in the international market. India has inked a deal with France for 36 jets worth Rs. 60,000 crores. 

Su-30 MKI is multirole combat fighters with an aerodynamic airframe made of titanium and high-intensity aluminium alloys. It has advanced Israeli avionics and electronic warfare systems, making them different from the standard SU-30s.

Additionally, the SU-30 MKI has a variety of missiles in its armoury including the Russian origin R73/77 and locally developed Astra and Brahmos missiles.

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However, the Mirage 2000s were IAF’s pick against Pakistan because Sukhoi Su-30MKI has a large radar cross-section which would have been easily detected by the enemy. The strike was carried out after entering Pakistan, the first time after the Kargil war. 

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Another reason why Mirage 2000 were chosen over Su-30 MKI for the Balakot strike was because of an Israeli system, the Spice 2000. It is an advance laser-guided system to convert any bomb into a GPS enabled missile capable of hitting enemy targets from a distance. These were the bombs that could only be fitted in Mirage 2000s.

The French Air Force replaced its Mirages from the new Dassault made Rafale fighters. India has already received the first batch of five Rafales, out of the 36 ordered. They recently conducted sorties in Ladakh as IAF pilots flew the Dassault jets from Ambala to Ladakh to acclimatize themselves with the operational conditions, a TOI report added.

“This aircraft has very good flying performance and its weapons, radar and other sensors and electronic warfare capabilities are among the best in the world. Its arrival in India will make the IAF much stronger to deter any threat that may be posed on our country,” said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. 

Reportedly, India has already deployed Su-30s, MKI, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 fighters in the Ladakh region and Rafales joining in. Experts believe that if a conflict breaks out, it would be Mirage 2000s along with Rafales which would neutralize Chinese ground defence while the MKIs would perform the air dominance role.

OpEd By Smriti Chaudhary. Views Personal