Could India Purchase Taiwan’s Ageing Mirage-2000 Jets Which Are Scheduled For Early Retirement?
Could India Purchase Taiwan’s Ageing Mirage-2000 Jets Which Are Scheduled For Early Retirement?. The Taiwanese Air Force has been widely reported to be planning an early retirement for its single squadron of Mirage-2000 fighters, with 60 of the French-built jets, learned citing militarywatchmagazine.
The Taiwanese Air Force has been widely reported to be planning an early retirement for its single squadron of Mirage-2000 fighters, with 60 of the French-built jets purchased in the mid-1990s alongside around twice that number of American F-16A Fighting Falcons.
The Mirage-2000 design is similar to that of the F-16 – a single engine lightweight fourth generation design intended to prioritise a lower operational cost, with an unremarkable range or endurance, a relatively small radar and no specialisation for air to air or air to ground engagements. Where the F-16 integrated the powerful F110 engine however, which bridged the gap with its preceding Soviet competitor the R-29, the Mirage-2000 used a much weaker powerplant which undermined its flight performance relative to its American rival.
Although the two jets appeared roughly comparable in the 1990s, the Mirage-2000 was not only a much more expensive fighter, but it would turn out to be a far from ideal choice compared to the F-16.
Problems with the Mirage reflected serious issues with France’s defence sector, including cracks airframes, growing obsolescence of both air to air or air to ground missiles, and a lack of availability of meaningful upgrades comparable to the F-16V upgrade package offered by the United States. The fighter’s poor manufacturing quality has also led to a very high crash rate, with 10% of the fleet lost in the way, where crashes of F-16 and indigenous Ching Kuo fighters have been few and far between. These added to the issue of an underpowered engine which had pervaded since the beginning. As a result, the Mirage was not only more expensive, but also much less capable and has increasingly become obsolete.
Although the Mirage-2000’s viability in air to air combat, anti shipping and standoff cruise missile strikes – the primary roles for which it was developed – is today extremely limited, the Indian Air Force, which also fields the fighter, has managed to press the aircraft into the role of a light bomber for delivering precision guided gravity bombs at short ranges.
While Taiwan’s relatively small air force has little use for a bomber – particularly given the strength of air defences deployed on the east coast of the Chinese mainland – for India which faces much softer targets on its borders a bomber variant of the Mirage has some value. It has therefore been widely speculated that India could seek to purchase Mirage-2000 fighters second hand from Taiwan, likely alongside the several hundred MICA and other French made munitions which were acquired to arm the jets.
With Taiwan having recently spent over $10 billion on new Western arms, and planning a number of further ambitious defence programs, selling the jets to India could help to cover costs, with the second hand fighters expected to sell for $1.5-2 billion.
An additional 2-3 Mirage squadrons could provide the Indian Air Force with a low cost means of enlarging its fleet to meet current expansion goals, and with the country already operating around 45 of the aircraft integration of a further 54 jets would bring the fleet size up to around 100. No other operator of the Mirage-2000 is expected to be interested in purchasing the fighters from Taiwan, with the Untied Arab Emirates, Qatar, Greece, Egypt and France all considering the fighter obsolete and looking to phase them out for either F-35, Rafale or, in Egypt’s case, possibly MiG-35 jets.
India previously showed an interest in acquiring Qatar’s 12 Mirage-2000 fighters second hand, indicating that it does have a genuine interest in expanding the fleet. The country’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) notably currently produces a similarly configured lightweight fighter, the Tejas, which has overall far superior capabilities to the Mirage-2000 including integration of much more modern munitions, sensors, avionics and electronic warfare systems several decades ahead of those on the French fighter. The relatively high cost of the Tejas, however, and the currently low production rate, means that there is still an incentive to procure the Mirage-2000 jets should they be offered for a low enough price.