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IAF mulls purchase of French Mirage fighters
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 5
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is thinking of purchasing French Mirage fighters to maintain an effective airpower strength as an interim measure in the wake of delays in finalising the contract for buying 126 multi-role combat aircraft.

India is also close to wrapping up a Rs 1,800-crore deal with Israel for buying Spyder quick-reaction air defence missile systems.

“We are in negotiations with France for the supply of some Mirage 2000-5,” Air chief S. P. Tyagi told newsmen here after addressing the media on the eve of Air Force Day tomorrow. Negotiations had also been revived with Qatar for the purchase of 12 Mirage fighters, he said, adding that the price negotiations for the missile systems were over and the deal had been sent to the Cabinet Committee on Security for clearance.

Air Chief Marshal Tyagi, who had recently visited Israel on the quiet said the IAF would be purchasing 18 Spyder missile systems. The system’s Python-5 and Derby missiles would give the IAF the capability to engage enemy aircraft, helicopters, unmanned air vehicles, drones and precision-guided munitions.

As regards the purchase of the Mirage fighter jets the IAF was taking these emergency measures in the wake of reports that its fighting squadron strength had plunged to a low of 39 squadrons and reports that Pakistan was on the threshhold of buying more F-16 fighters from the USA.

Asserting that the government was “alive and responsive” to requests by the IAF on measures to tide over depleting force levels, he also outlined that Hindustan Aeronautics had increased production of Sukhoi-30MKI fighters. He also said the IAF would go in for the purchase of six more IL-78 mid-Air refuellers.

Asked about the replacement of the IAF’s ageing surface-to-air Pechora missiles, Air Chief Marshal Tyagi said his force was keen on joint development of medium-range and long-range missile systems.

Not hiding his disappointment over the delay in the indigenious Akash surface-to-air missile programme, he said, “The delay has upset our plans on the country’s air defence management.”

He said “the final user trials of Akash were expected in February next year and if all parameters are met the missile will be ready for induction by 2009.

Maintaining that “our vision” is to acquire “strategic reach” and trans-oceanic capability, the Air Chief said IAF was preparing for induction of British Hawk advanced jet trainers and airborne and early warning system (Awacs) aircraft by next year.

He added that the force would be getting 20 additional upgraded Jaguars and 20 indigenious light combat aircraft by 2009.

Modernisation was not confined to fighters, he said, outlining that from next year the IAF would be inducting 80 new helicopters as well as initiating measures to upgrade its present fleet of Russian Mi-17 helicopters, An-32 medium lift and IL-76 heavy-lift transport aircraft.



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