Indian Air Force and the story of how it brought Israel, France and Russia together

Indian Air Force and the story of how it brought Israel, France and Russia together
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  • India started using French Mirage 2000s in 1985 but started facing problems when in 2008 its R-530D and Magic II missiles became obsolete.
  • The Indian Air Force decided to integrate its Russian R-73 missiles with the Mirage and Israeli ‘Elbit’ successfully completed the project.
  • Israel integrated the missiles not only with the fighter jet but also with the DASH helmet it was providing India.
The story of Indian Air Force has been written with the aid of many global counterparts. And over time, the country has become an expert at mix and match.

Here’s how. An Indian pilot is flying a French Mirage fighter, weilding a Russian missile, with an Israeli helmet!

This ‘mix’ is also because Indian forces use legacy equipment, which has been causing concerns. Air Force’s Mirage 2000 fighter jet has been in service since 1985 and officially India is the only country currently operating this aircraft. So much so, its maker France’s Dassault stopped producing them.

In 2008, the R-530D and Magic II air-to-air missiles which Mirage was primarily equipped also became obsolete and the fighter was left without any missiles to fight the enemy aircrafts.

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As the procurement of similar aircraft was lengthy, and IAF didn’t have many options, they decided to integrate their Russian R-73 missiles onto Mirage. Putting the R-73, which was then in service with the Sukhoi 30s, Mig-29s and Mig-21 ‘Bison’ jets, with any western platforms had never been tried before.

This project did not go down well with the French who refused to assist India in this ‘Jugaad’ project. But an ‘innovative’ Israel was ready to take on the challenge.

The integration was finally done with the help of the country’s Elbit, which was also supplying Indian Air Force with its latest sophisticated DASH helmet-mounted display. This helps project critical information during missions, right to the pilot’s eye.

“There were key challenges,” says an IAF officer who further added that, “This was a new helmet and we were working without source codes.”

So they had to go to extra lengths and make algorithms to make Mirage’s radar ‘talk’ to Russian missiles.

While this was done under super surveillance as Elbit has to be given access to the aircraft’s sensitive information.

The other countries of France and Russia were unhappy as their assistance was not taken for the project, though France did refuse help. However, it was a success, and all’s well that ends well. Even if the Indian forces have to resort to face multitude of issues instead of buying new equipment.

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