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Indian Air Force hastens its plans to buy ex-French Mirage 2000s

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is fast-tracking its EUR27 million (USD31.78 million) plan to purchase 24 second-hand Dassault Mirage 2000 fighters from France in a bid to boost its declining combat squadrons.

Thirteen of the 24 aircraft are in ‚Äúcompleted condition‚ÄĚ, needing only ‚Äúservicing and basic maintenance‚ÄĚ before becoming fully operational for squadron service, official sources told Janes on 17 September. They added that the 11 remaining Mirage 2000s, which are in a ‚Äúsemi-finished condition‚ÄĚ, would be cannibalised for their subassemblies and spare parts to sustain the IAF's two upgraded Mirage 2000H squadrons, which comprise 49 aircraft that entered service from mid-1985 onwards.

The IAF refers to this endeavour as ‚Äėreduce to produce'; in 2018 it obtained SEPECAT Jaguar airframes, assorted spares and subassemblies from France, Oman and the United Kingdom to support its ageing fleet of over 100 of these Anglo-French ground attack aircraft to improve their operational serviceability.

The IAF spokesman in New Delhi declined to comment on the intended Mirage 2000 buy, but industry officials indicated that the deal could be signed ‚Äúsoon‚ÄĚ.

‚ÄúThe IAF needs new combat aircraft to maintain parity in fighter numbers with its neighbours,‚ÄĚ said military analyst Air Marshal V K Bhatia (retd). The intended Mirage 2000 acquisition, he added, will supplement the IAF's existing platforms in addition to ‚Äúsignificantly‚ÄĚ augmenting its operational capability, he added.

Although the IAF has a sanctioned strength of 42 fighter squadrons, it currently only operates about 28. By 2023, however, this number is likely to fall even further to 23-25 squadrons as upgraded MiG-21 variants and Jaguars begin retiring from 2022 onwards, having expended their total technical life (TTL).

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