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Indian Air Force integrates Russian R-73 missiles with French Mirage-2000

Christian Fernsby |
For close to a decade now, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has been integrating Russian R-73 missiles with its French-built Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft.

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In IAF circles, the combination of a Russian air-to-air missile, with an Israeli helmet-mounted display, to be worn by an Indian pilot, flying a French-built Mirage 2000 fighter, has been described as the ultimate innovative fix, says the Indian television news channel NDTV.

The antecedents about this novel experiment go back to 2008 when the IAF worried about delays in the procurement process and was concerned about the long-term air strike efficacy of French-built R-530D and Magic II air-to-air missiles on Mirages. They then took the out-of-the-box decision to integrate Russian weapons systems onto French-designed and manufactured aircraft.

The R-73 was already in service with the IAF’s Sukhoi 30s, MiG-29s and MiG-21 'Bison' jets. This integration onto a Western platform had never been attempted before.

The French government also protested, saying it was disinclined to assist in the integration of Russian weapons systems onto a French platform. The French were then keen on India importing a new generation of French-designed weaponry.

The integration did take place, with some timely help from engineers of the Israeli firm Elbit, which had then been contracted to supply sophisticated DASH helmet-mounted displays, devices which project mission-critical information into pilot's view.

Integrating the R-73 missile to the DASH helmet was easier said than done.

An IAF officer, aware of the integration challenges, told NDTV on condition of anonymity, that algorithms had to be developed so the radar of the Mirage and the Israeli helmet-mounted sight could "communicate" with the Russian missile.

He said it would have been impossible to integrate the Russian missile without the proper algorithms and modified software.

"Neither French nor Russian help was made use of. They were obviously upset," the IAF officer told NDTV, but the integration of the R-73 missile with the French Mirage aircraft has been quite a success over the last decade. In fact, it has been much more capable than the Magic II that it replaced, he added.

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