Early morning of 25 February, 12 Mirage 2000H aircraft peeled away from a strike squadron and headed towards Balakot in Pakistan, where 300 of the JeM terrorists had been relocated to from the LoC. Not just Balakot, but Chakothi and Muzaffarabad also felt the pain of the IAF in the Mirage.
This was not the first time that the IAF decided to use the Mirage on the offensive. During the Kargil war, it was the same Mirage that bombed Pakistani positions that had taken Tiger Hill and Tololing. It was Israeli ammunition that was released on those positions during that time and the same could be said two decades later at Balakot.
It was also Israel and France who solidly stood by India during the Kargil war rapidly supplying spares as well as ammunition at the time.
Because of the resounding success of the Mirage during the Kargil war and because of its reliability, the IAF decided to pursue the MMRCA contract in trying to add up to 126 more fighters of the Mirage type to the already established Mirage squadrons.
However, for as long as the IAF tried especially with multiple aircraft types being retired, negotiations fell through. The last Mirage specifically made for the Hellenic Air Force rolled out in 2007.
Left with aging Mirage, the IAF did a fantastic job on its own incorporating multiple different armament types especially from Israel onto its platform.
During the Kargil war, these were litening pods that allowed the limited capability of the Mirage of the time to allow for laser guided ammunitions. In 2019, it is likely that the same pods were used to direct the new 1000-pound SPICE bombs guided via GPS.
The IAF in trying to keep its premier fleet current, decided to go for the Mirage 2005 upgrade which would enable the Mirage to fly on till at least late into the 2030s. Armed with fully glass cockpit as well as a new radar, the Thales RDY 2, it would enable the Mirage to fire and forget MICA air to air missile. In this respect, the Mirage shares much with the Rafale and they would form an even greater strike package with both of the Rafael and the Mirage flying together.
The Rafale itself has many advantages and improvements based upon the long serving history of the Mirage itself. This is especially true in the area of electronic warfare especially Suppression of enemy air defenses(SEAD) while heading such strike package into Pakistan. Its SPECTRA electronic warfare system allows for much higher survivability and success of such missions. The IAF concocted a brilliant plan with regard to a complete confusing air space before launching the 12 Mirage into Pakistan. However with the limited EW suite of the Mirage, in truth it seems that this was really a high-risk mission.
With the Rafale, such as strike package survivability would only have been enhanced in view of the electronic warfare systems that the Rafael possesses and the interoperability regarding data links between the Rafael and the Mirage.
The Rafale itself has taken the best of the Mirage even with the upgrades and taken the next step with even greater low observability, electronic warfare systems as well as higher survivability with two engines.
Pegged with the never-ending negotiations, declining squadron strength and an ever-worsening strategic scenario, the Modi government decided to go ahead and negotiate the fresh contract of Rafale to arrest and increase the squadron’s current with options for even more. The 36 Rafale would not just double the existing strike strength of the Mirage fleet, but really multiply it multifold with the new Mirage upgrades.
It must’ve been a doubly painful episode, for the opposition to not only see such success for the NDA government in launching the strikes, but also to see again that the aircraft involved, was really the precursor to the Rafale aircraft.
Over the last two years, the Congress under Rahul Gandhi has strived to constantly create a narrative of complete disinformation among the Indian public with regard to seeing corruption where there was none.
It is not just the French government, the CEO of Dassault, multiple IAF commanders, the Supreme Court of India and even the CAG who has seen no irregularities with the Rafale deal.
In fact, Rahul has even visited previous Defense Minister Manohar Parikkar while in the hospital and tried to use a sick man to strengthen his own warped agenda.
Not just this, but barely a day after the strike at Balakot, Rahul Gandhi led 21 opposition parties to give a press release against the ruling NDA and BJP government.
So much so that in the Pakistani media showed the same clips to highlight the disunity of the opposition parties to the ruling government decision to promote the strike as well. It seems that the ruling political party does not only have to worry about fighting Pakistanis on the border but also trying to fight a propaganda war among Indians itself who are helping the same Pakistanis.
If anything, the above strike on Balakot should reinforce the necessity of the Rafale to the Armed Forces including highly interoperability between the Rafael and the Mirage.
It would lead to a huge dent in the strategic capability of the Armed Forces if Rahul was to continue with his warped agenda in trying to blacklist Dassault, for not only would it affect the Rafael but also future spares that supply the Mirage fleet.
The Congress government might do well to introspect not only on their past regarding the Bofors Scam but also with the ongoing revelations regarding Christian Michel in the Augusta Westland helicopter scam, involving his family again.
Could it be that he has his own agenda in blacklisting Dassault for a rival competitor? It seems that his family has really profited from such cases as before.
One can only hope that with the return of Abhinandan Varthaman and his courage in shooting down F-16 in close range from a decades-old Mig 21 Bison we can learn a few lessons. Our Armed Forces are in desperate need of aircraft that they can trust to do the missions that they now have the license to go and do.
We must stand and say, the concocted stories of Rahul on the Rafale are indeed a Mirage!
(Disclaimer: The writer is Vikram Hakura. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)