New Delhi: The Indian Air Force is keenly considering arming the Mirage 2000 aircraft with potent long-range Meteor missiles as the 27 February dogfight highlighted that Indian aircraft were outranged by Pakistan Air Force in aerial combat.
With the Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile Meteor, the balance will once again tilt in India’s favour the way it happened during the Kargil war in 1999 when the Pakistan Air Force did not dare to close in because India had better air-to-air missiles.
On 27 February, at the Line of Control (LoC), Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets, armed with AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM, had targeted India’s frontline fighter aircraft Su-30 MKI.
The Indian fighters, armed with R-73 and R-77 air-to-air missiles, could not target the F-16s because they were outranged as the F-16s were fired from a distance of about 45 km from the LoC.
It is only when a Mig-21 Bison, flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, chased an intruding Pakistani fighter jet across the LoC that it got a lock on and shot it down.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had later said that if the IAF had Rafale fighter jets, then the outcome would have been different.
Top IAF officials told ThePrint that it indeed would have been the case.
“Rafale armed with Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile Meteor would have been a huge deterrent as no Pakistani aircraft would have dared to come close by at least 100 km,” an official said.
Mirage 2000 armed with Meteors
The IAF, which is upgrading three squadrons of Mirage 2000s, is now keenly thinking about integrating the Meteor on them.
“The Meteor on the Mirage is something which we are keenly looking into. When the upgrade deal was signed with Dassault Aviation for the Mirages, the Meteor was still in the developing phase. And hence this would be a fresh deal. We are looking into the cost-effectiveness and other issues,” a top IAF source told ThePrint.
The Air Force is looking at a combination of BrahMos NG, Israeli Derby, Meteor, indigenous Astra, R-73 and R-77 to gain aerial superiority.
“There is no class of missiles in Pakistan and China that can match the Meteor at this point of time. However, China is investing heavily on indigenous cruise missiles and long-range missiles. Any missile that China will make will eventually get into the hands of Pakistan,” another IAF source said.
The Indian Air Force had the upper hand during the Kargil war because Pakistan did not have a BVR, but India did. However, since then, they have acquired the AMRAAM, which tilted the balance in their favour.
IAF’s plan for Meteor on Su-30 MKI and Tejas goes kaput
The IAF’s initial plan to equip the Su-30 MKI and the Tejas with Meteor has gone kaput because the European firm, MBDA, refused to integrate them.
The MBDA told the IAF that it cannot integrate the missile, with a range of over 120 km and a no-escape zone of 60 km, on a Russian platform or the Tejas, which uses Israeli radar.
However, following heavy negotiations between the European firm and the IAF, the MBDA has agreed to reconsider once indigenous AESA radar, manufactured by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), is installed on board the Tejas Mark 1A or Mark II.
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