Contrary to Rahul Gandhi’s claims in Parliament, the Mirage-2000 aircraft was manufactured by Dassault Aviation, the maker of Rafale fighter jets

New Delhi: As he mounted an attack on the Narendra Modi government over the Rafale deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi claimed in the Parliament Wednesday that state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) manufactured Mirage-2000 aircraft.

Unfortunately for Gandhi, the statement is factually incorrect.

The Mirage-2000 aircraft was manufactured by French firm Dassault Aviation, the maker of Rafale fighter jets, which is in the eye of a political storm.

Speaking in the Parliament, Gandhi said, “HAL has been making aircraft for 70 years…Mirage-2000…”

The fact is that Mirage-2000 was bought from France through a contract which was signed during by a Congress government in 1982. The first seven Mirage-2000 were also delivered during Congress rule in 1985.

The HAL has been responsible for maintenance and overhaul of the aircraft for over two decades, but it most certainly cannot be attributed as the aircraft manufacturer.

Mirage In India

At present, India has a strength of three squadrons of Mirage-2000, capable of delivering a nuclear payload.

The Mirage is currently undergoing a $2.4-billion upgrade in which the HAL, trained by the French firm, is playing a major role.

According to the deal, the first two Mirage-2000 were upgraded by Dassault Aviation and handed over to Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2015. They have upgraded two more in India and are to collaborate with the HAL for six more.

The rest of the Mirage-2000 will be upgraded by HAL.

The Rafale Contract

The contract for the 36 Rafale fighter jets can be traced back to the Mirage-2000 aircraft.

Way back in 2001, when the IAF moved a proposal to buy Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) — for which Rafale was eventually selected — the French maker offered to shift the assembly line of the Mirage-2000 from France to India. It had, at the time, decided to shut down the aircraft line to pave the way for Rafale fighter jets.

By 2004, India had decided to go in for a global tender for the MMRCA rather than manufacture the Mirage-2000. It was only in 2007 that a global Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued, in which the Rafale emerged as the winner.

At the moment, India is witnessing a political storm over the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets under the Modi government.