India To Replace Mirage 2000 Jets With Tejas MK2; Is LCA A Worthy Successor To Battle-Proven Dassault Fighters?
Air Chief Marshal of the Indian Air Force (IAF) recently said air defense operations are closely related to offensive aerial operations. Subsequently, in what could be a bid to boost the power of the Indian Air Force, the service has revealed the number of Tejas Mk2 it will be buying. On 18 July, Air Chief Vivek Ram Chaudhari said that the Indian Air Force has already committed to purchasing six squadrons of the Light cσmbat Aircraft Mark 2 (LCA M2), which is currently under production. Once the production of these aircraft begins, more orders will be placed by the service, ANI reported.
“Indian Air Force has already committed the induction of six squadrons of Light cσmbat Aircraft Mark 2 fighter jets. We will decide on other numbers once the production of these aircraft starts,” Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari told ANI. Tejas is India’s ‘Make in India’ marvel, indigenously being developed at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The LCA Mk1 is already in service, and the more capable LCA-Mk1A, 83 of which the IAF had ordered in February last year, will be delivered to the Indian Air Force by the end of this decade. The first three aircraft are reported to be delivered by 2024, with 16 each for the next five years.
The Air Chief’s announcement for Mk2 comes even as India tries to sell its LCA Tejas to potential buyers EurAsian Times had earlier reported that the indigenously developed aircraft has emerged as a top contender for the Malaysian fighter jet contract. India is also vigorously looking toward the Middle East for its export debut. In addition to the LCA Tejas Mk2, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has also committed to acquiring at least seven squadrons of the fifth-generation Indian fighter Advanced Medium cσmbat Aircraft (AMCA), which is also being developed at a breakneck pace, informed the IAF top boss.
Retiring Mirage 2000 Fighters
When the Jaguar and Mirage 2000 fighters are to be phased out after ten years, the LCA Mark 2 fighter will replace them. Over many years of service, the Mirage 2000 jets of the IAF have maintained an exceptional operational record. In February 2019, twelve Mirage 2000 fighter jets crossed the Indian Airspace for the first time to strike the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror launch pads across the Line of Control. Military observers lauded the Mirage 2000’s performance in the 2019 airstrike on Balakot. The Mirage 2000 was also deployed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) alongside Jaguars and Su-30MKI after a conflict broke out between India and China in the Eastern Ladakh region.
Even though the French Air Force has retired their Mirage 2000 in favor of 4.5-generation Rafales, the Indian Air Force inked a contract in August 2021 to acquire two dozen phased-out Mirage 2000 aircraft from France for spare parts. It received the first two of these fighters in November 2021. The aircraft that has been in service for more than three decades is still a useful ωɑɾ machine. It is thus, worth analyzing how the Tejas Mk2 aircraft that is set to replace the cσmbat-capable Mirage 2000 fare in the Indian Air Force with a multitude of threats surrounding the Indian airspace.
Tejas Mk2 VS Mirage 2000
A multi-role cσmbat fighter, the Mirage 2000 developed by Dassault Aviation comes in single-seat and two-seat variants. The aircraft completed its first flight in March 1978 and was given the go-ahead to take to the skies in the early 1980s. They were accepted into the IAF only in 1985. In contrast, India’s indigenous Tejas Mark 2A aircraft built at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is a multi-role fighter jet yet to roll out of the HAL hangar. While the IAF approved the aircraft’s comprehensive design review (CDR) last year, experts believe it would not be rolled out before 2026.
The Mirage 2000 measures 14.3 meters in overall length, 9.1 meters in wingspan, and 5.2 meters in height. One SNECMA M53-P2 turbofan engine with 95 kN of thrust powers the aircraft. In contrast, the Tejas Mk2 variant is a medium-weight aircraft slightly bigger than the Mirage, with an overall length of 14.6 meters, a smaller wingspan, and a height of 8.5 meters and 4.86 meters each. Tejas Mk-2 will be powered by a GE-F414 INS6 engine with a thrust estimated at 98 kN, more than the Mirage 2000 that it will replace. Even though the aircraft was envisioned as a Light cσmbat Aircraft, as seen in the mock-up picture below, the powerful engine has transformed it into a medium-weight fighter jet.