The first two Mirage 2000 combat jets of the Indian Air Force (IAF) have flown out for mid-life upgrade at the facilities of Thales, the French defence and aerospace giant. The upgrade of the 51 aircraft, Mirage 2000, fleet will cost an estimated $1.35 billion.
The aircraft are expected to be upgraded to Mirage 2000-9 capabilities, a version that currently does service with the UAE air force.
"Two aircraft - a single seater and a double-seater - have flown out to the French Air Base near Istres. The aircraft will reach Monday-Tuesday after halts in two countries in the Gulf and two in Europe," Thales country director Eric Lenseigne said.
"The upgrade will begin immediately after a 22-member project team from the Indian Air Force and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) will be associated with the project. This is what we call a middle-life upgrade. It will take a few years," Lenseigne said.
Lenseigne explained that during the upgrade of the two aircraft in Istres, a small team of Thales experts would also visit Bangalore for the upgrade of another two Mirage 2000 jets at the facility of Hindustan Aeronautics.
"The dates have not been fixed yet. It could be anytime towards the first half of 2013. Both at Istres and Bangalore, there will also be a simultaneous transfer of technology, so that the remaining upgrades can be done by the Indian side," he said.