21:08 GMT +318 July 2019
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    Dassault Mirage 2000D jet fighter

    Not My Bill! Indian Air Force, Company Fight Over Who Pays Jet Upkeep Contract

    © AFP 2019 / SEBASTIEN BOZON
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    India might find itself in trouble trying to maintain and upgrade its aging Dassault Mirage fleet of fighter jets as the two responsible bodies point fingers at each other demanding the other one should pay.

    The maintenance warranty for India's Mirage 2000 fighter jets is expired, and nobody wants to pay for renewal of the contract, which might end in the absence of a new contract altogether, Defense News reports.

    According to the report, French weapon manufacturers Dassault Aviation and Thales demand an annual payment of $15 million from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) to extend the warranty for tooling and test machinery and equipment that expired last month. HAL, however, reportedly refused to pay, asking the Indian Air Force to provide money instead. The Air Force responded by pointing out that the annual maintenance fee is part the upgrade contract with HAL.

    Hindustan Aeronautics executives have not yet commented on the issue.

    Hindustan Aeronautics is currently responsible for upgrading India's 47 Mirage jets under a contract awarded in 2015. The company managed to deliver seven upgraded jets to the Air Force since then, Defense News reports. Another contract, signed in 2011, puts HAL in responsibility of upgrading of another batch of 47 Mirages.

    Interestingly, Thales and Dassault are also tasked with upgrading another 51 Mirage jets under a contract signed back in 2011. Despite the longer timeframe, only four jets were delivered to the Air Force. Thales and Dassault also have important roles in HAL's own upgrade programs.

    Squeezed between two potential adversaries — China and Pakistan — India seeks to upgrade and simultaneously increase its fleet of planes from 34 squadrons to 42, which means procurement of some 150-160 more planes. However, their fleet of Soviet-era jets are aging and some 13 squadrons are expected to retire by 2027. This debate over responsibility for their Mirages is just one more headache to worry about.

    For the most part, the Indian Air Force is equipped with Soviet and Russian aircraft, Cold War familiars like the MiG-21, MiG-27, MiG-29 and newer Su-30MKI. French-built Mirages stand out as one of the few Western-manufactured aircraft alongside the SEPECAT Jaguar, although both are Cold War relics of similar age to their Soviet jets. The IAF only sports one home-grown plane: the HAL Tejas fighter.

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    Tags:
    contract, upgrade, Dassault Mirage, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Dassault Aviation, India’s Air Force, India
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