Today, precisely at 3.45 AM, in an operation lasting 19 minutes, 12 Indian Air Force Mirage-2000 fighter jets, entered Pakistani airspace and dropped 1,000-kg laser-guided bombs on Jaish-e-Mohammed terror launch pads at Balakot, a town in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan, about 50 km from the Line of Control.
Though India has many frontline new-age fighter jets like the Sukhoi Su-30 MKI and MIG 29, apart from our indigenously developed Tejas LCA in its arsenal, it was again left to ever reliable Mirage-2000 jets, which was so successfully used against Pakistan in the Kargil war. Now, let us try to know more about this incredible war machine which has served our Indian Air Force beautifully in last 20 years or so.
Mirage 2000 made by Dassault Aviation is a French multirole, single-engine fourth-generation jet fighter . It was designed in the late 1970s as a replacement for the earlier avatar, Mirage III for the French Air Force .The Mirage 2000 soon developed into a multirole aircraft with several variants. Apart from Indian and French Air Force, seven other countries have incorporated this jet into active services. This model was further developed into the Mirage 2000N and 2000D strike variants and also the much improved Mirage 2000-5. Currently, there are over 600 aircraft in active service with nine nations.
Undoubtedly, the Mirage-2000, known by its Sanskritised name Vajra is one of the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) most versatile and deadliest aircraft that was first commissioned in 1985. In the Kargil war of 1999, it played decisive role in giving air cover to our armed forces in the famous war of recapturing the Tiger Hills where the Pakistani forces had taken a strategically superior position on the uphill.
But the deployment of Mirage 2000 proved a clincher for the Indian Army which became victorious on the strength of the fire power provided by the daredevils of Indian Air Force who turned the Kargil war in India’s favour. The Mirage-2000 is comparatively a lightweight jet and that is because it uses a single shaft engine Snecma M53 that is lighter and simpler as compared to other fighter jet engines. This particular engine was initially not made for Mirage jets as in 1970 it failed the tests but subsequently in 1974,
Dassault Aviation again conducted flight tests with the new M53-2 version and found it suitable for their jets.
Most of the Mirage 2000 is fitted with Snecma M53-P2 engine. Though Mirage is designed as a single fighter pilot, it can be made into a twin-seat jet depending on the requirements of particular armed force. The body of jet measures 14.36 metres in length and has a wingspan of 91.3 metres.
The average dry weight of a Mirage 2000 is 7500 kg and has a total takeoff weight of 17000 kg. Mirage 2000 can reach a maximum speed of Mach 2.2 (2336 kmph) and is capable of traveling 1550 km with drop tanks. It can fly at a maximum height of 59000 ft (17km).
If we compare Mirage 2000 with other frontline aircraft like, Russian made Sukhoi Su30 MKI which has a speed of 2120 kmph (Mach 2), slower than the Mirage-2000 and is also heavier and that gives Mirage-2000 a distinct advantage over other similar aircraft in the quick operations like we witnesses today morning. The Mirage 2000 has a inbuilt fly-by-wire flight control system and is fitted with Sextant VE-130 HUD, which continuously displays data related to flight control, navigation, target engagement, and weapon firing system giving the pilot full control over this amazing machine.
If we talk of fire power, the Mirage 2000 can carry laser guided bombs, air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles and has Thomson-CSF RDY (Radar Doppler Multi-target) radar on board. The Dassault made Rafale jets will be a natural successor to this plane. The jet uses a retractable tricycle type landing gear manufactured by Messier-Dowty, with twin nose wheels and a single wheel on each main gear.
There is a provision for a runway tail hook or a fairing for a brake parachute that can be fitted under the tail, which operates along with the landing gear’s carbon brakes to shorten landing distances. The pilot flies the aircraft through a control stick and left hand throttles, with both incorporating hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls.
The pilot seat is zero-zero ejection seat, SEM MB MK10 which is a licensed version of the British Martin-Baker Mark 10. The Mirage 2000 is equipped with also built-in GIAT 30–550 F4, 30 mm cannons with 125 rounds each which can be fired at the rate of 1,200 or 1,800 rounds per minute. The unique design of Mirage 2000 makes it ideal for carrying out Surgical Strikes and also for the surprise attacks. It’s a lethal flying machine for any Air Force, thanks to its load-carrying capacity, precision, Laser Guided Bombs and latest technology updates.
The French Mirage 2000s was also used quite successfully during the Gulf War of 1990-91, by the US Air Force, where they flew high altitude air defence. It was also used during UN and NATO air operations in the Bosnian War and the Kosovo War. In 2001-2002, the French Mirage 2000Ds served with the International Security Assistance Force during the conflict in Afghanistan, operating along with international forces and performed precision attacks by using laser-guided bombs.
Indian Air Force is shortly planning to finalise a deal with the Dassault who have offered to upgrade India’s 51 frontline Mirage 2000 fighters in a ‘compressed delivery time-frame’. The proposed deal is almost in its final stages and if finalised, the new Mirage would come armed with longer range air-to-air missiles which will immensely enhance its fighting capabilities. As per the new agreement, the fighters would be armed with MICA missiles with a range of taking on targets almost 40 km away, almost double the range of present missiles fitted on Indian fighter planes.
After the up gradation, the expected life of Mirage 2000 will be extended by another 20-25 years besides extending its range by almost 800 km without refueling and longer range detection capability to confront and take on four to five targets simultaneously both on ground and in air. The Mirage 2000 fighter jets may be 30 years old but they are destined to be among our frontline fighter jets for many more years.