Bolton (United Kingdom): The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) plans to arm the Mirage 2000 fleet with potent long-range Meteor missiles has hit rough weather due to high integration cost and lower capability of the fighter jet. The Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile Meteor — part of the Rafale weapons package — has a range of about 150 km and a no-escape zone of 100 km.
Officials at MBDA, the missile’s maker, said they had discussed the matter with the IAF and were informed that the deal was “not viable”.
“We are in discussion with the IAF and it could still be an option. Our initial view is that perhaps the most optimal solution will be to bring the next generation MICA on the Mirage platform,” said MBDA’s Ryan Hurril, while briefing a select group of Indian journalists at its facility in the United Kingdom.
IAF sources also confirmed that they were informed by the MBDA about the higher cost of integrating the Meteor on the Mirage 2000.
“Moreover, the Meteor works with a state-of-the-art radar that comes with platforms like Rafale. Meteor won’t be as effective on a Mirage which comes with a different radar,” said an IAF source.
Balakot was a trigger for IAF to consider Meteor
ThePrint had earlier reported that the IAF was considering arming the Mirage 2000 with Meteor missiles after the 27 February dogfight with the Pakistan Air Force. The aerial battle had highlighted that Indian aircraft were outranged by the Pakistani force.
At the Line of Control (LoC), Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets — equipped 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 Line of Control.
China, Pakistan don’t have missile to counter Meteor
The 36 Rafales that India has already bought from France will come equipped with the BVR Meteor missiles, which is likely to change the air power dynamics in the region. Neither China nor Pakistan has any missile to counter the Meteor.
The IAF is also in the process of upgrading three squadrons of Mirage 2000 and all of these will be equipped with the MICA air-to-air missile. MICA has a range of about 60 km.
However, the MBDA is already working on the Mica NG, which has a higher range, to replace the MICA medium-range missile.
The IAF is now looking at a combination of BrahMos NG, Israeli Derby, Meteor, MICA, indigenous Astra, R-73 and R-77 to gain aerial superiority.
(This reporter is visiting the Bolton facility as a guest of MBDA.)