It is clear that behind IAF’s concerted and sustained moves over the years to delay the Tejas LCA induction, is an institutional aversion to indigenously designed and developed combat aircraft. This has a long history starting with the cold-blooded killing in the early 1970s of the Marut Mk-II, and the loss of a generation of gifted aircraft designers led by Dr Raj Mahindra who cut their teeth under the great Fockewulf design bureau chief, Dr. Kurt Tank. It is reflected in the pitch that gets shriller every time some service brass opens his mouth, demanding foreign warplanes, in the present context, the Rafale. Considering the quite exorbitant payout involved in obtaining this aircraft — which is plainly giving the Defmin Parrikar the conniptions, because he is saddled with the unenviable task of reconciling PM Modi’s manifestly spur-of-the-moment statement in Paris of offtaking 36 Rafales with the paucity of resources confronting his ministry.
An easy way out for Parriker to escape the tight corner he is in and junk the Rafale but also meet IAF’s craving for foreign combat aircraft, especially French, fighter planes, is to acquire from a financially beleagured Greece its nearly three squadrons of Mirage 2000 aircraft IAF so dearly loves. The Hellenic AF operates 45 Mirage 2000s — 20 EGM/BGM variant and 25 “5 Mk-II” version.The difference between the Greek EGM/BGM and the 5-Mk II Mirage 2000 is only an external IFR. Greece is unlikely to be disarmed — it also has some 150-odd F-16 C/Ds. So Athens would happily part with its Mirages, what with the Greek govt of Tsipras being hounded by German creditors to repay the outstanding national debt totaling nearly 200% of its GDP! The Indian fleet of Mirage 2000, it may be recalled, is being upgraded @ $52 million/plane to the Mirage 2000-5 standard.
Further, Qatar is in the market to dispose of its 9 Mirage 2000s which too India can buy.
Together that’s 45 Mirage 2000s from Greece and 9 of the same from Qatar for a complement of 54 planes, doubling IAF’s Mirage 2000 fleet. India, moreover, will not have to invest in the servicing infrastructure which already exists, nor will monies have to be splurged either on training pilots or servicing technicians. It only needs an imaginative gambit by the Modi govt to approach Athens with a deal it cannot refuse, say, $100 million per Mirage 2000 in the Hellenic AF with all the stores, spares, and weapons holdings for this aircraft. That will cost the Indian exchequer $4.5 billion for the Greek Mirages and another billion $ for the Qatari aircraft, the deal totaling less than $6 billion for 54 Mirage 2000-5s versus $8-$9 billion for only 36 Rafales, which last monies do not factor the downstream costs of sustaining the Rafale in IAF, which will be many multiples of this price tag. Besides, what’s the performance falloff between the Mirage 2000-5 and the Rafale? Minimal. So, OK, the latter has AESA. But, it is not beyond Indian ingenuity to outfit the Mirages so acquired along with the IAF’s Mirage fleet, with the DRDO-built AESA that’s going to be tested later this year — a product developed jointly with Israel based on the Elta 2032 computer. The sensible economics involved should persuade Modi to backtrack on his Paris statement which, if deconstructed, was not a commitment to buy at all.
How’s this a bad deal??? Get going Mr Parrikar.