NEW DELHI, March 23 (UPI) -- The first two of 49 Mirage-2000 fighters slated for upgrade for the Indian Air Force are being delivered in France to Dassault and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
A French Ministry of Defense official told The Times of India that the delivery will occur this week at Istres and that the aircraft have been fitted with new avionics and weapon systems. The next two aircraft will be upgraded by HAL in India with French assistance.
"The upgraded Mirages have been stripped down and virtually re-built with state-of-the-art avionics, radars, mission computers, glass cockpits, helmet-mounted displays, electronic warfare suites and long-range missiles," the ministry official said. "IAF will be able to operate them for another 15-20 years."
India has initiated a series of aircraft upgrades and inductions to modernize air force capabilities. Among them is the acquisition of 200 of 272 Sukhoi-30MKI aircraft from Russia. Its fighter projects, however, have been delayed for a variety of reasons.
"The indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft project is also running years behind schedule," an unidentified Indian offcial was quoted as saying. "Numbers do eventually matter. IAF should ideally have 44 fighter squadrons, instead of the 34 it is currently has."