The arrival in India of the first two upgraded Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage 2000 T/TI fighter aircraft marked the induction of a new-generation of potent Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs) with the service, in MBDA’s MICA AAM. The MICA will replace the Indian Air Force’s obsolete Super 530D Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) and Magic 550 II close combat missiles (CCM).
The MICA has an advantage over all other current AAM, of being the world’s only missile that features two interchangeable seekers — Radio Frequency (RF) and Infra-Red (IR). IAF Mirage 2000 T/TI’s can be carry up to six MICAs in a mix of RF and IR versions offering unprecedented operational flexibility and capability. When comparing MICA with the legacy Super 530D and Magic 550 II AAMs, the MICA is equipped with thrust vector control making it far more manoeuvrable and agile.
In addition, both IR and RF versions of MICA can engage multiple targets simultaneously something not possible on non-upgraded Mirage 2000s with the Super 530D and Magic 550 II missiles. The active radar seeker equipped MICA RF also has a much greater range than the missile it’s replacing, the semi active radar Super 530D. The MICA IR offers proven over the shoulder capability over the Magic II and much greater range along with Lock on before Launch (LOBL) and Lock on after Launch (LOAL) compared to the Magic II which offers only the possibility of LOBL shot.
The order for 493 MICA missiles (RF & IR) was placed in 2012 to replace the Mirage’s life-expired Matra S-530D BVRAAM and Magic 550-II CCM, with deliveries to be concluded by 2019. MBDA officials state, “everything is progressing as scheduled and deliveries will take place according to the requirements laid out in the contract regarding timing and quantities. Due to customer confidentiality, we cannot go into details of the split between the RF and IR versions.”
Upgrade work has been completed on the first two aircraft and work on the four more aircraft (two in France and two in India) are advancing on schedule as is the integration work on the missiles. MBDA personnel have been working closely with Thales as well as training Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) engineers here in France so that they carry out the remaining integration work on the aircraft to be upgraded in India. IAF Mirage 2000 T/TI’s benefit from the ‘multi-aircraft’ design of the MICA that allows the missile to be easily integrated on modern fighter aircraft. By deciding on the MICA, the IAF also benefited by not having to integrate an additional missile on its Mirage 2000 T/TIs and will also achieve substantial savings when it comes to the supply chain and maintenance of the missile.
Along with the MICA variants (RF & IR) carried on the upgraded Mirage 2000s, IAF Jaguars will be also fitted with the ASRAAM CCM, as part of Rs 2,700 crore (USD 428 million) contract signed just under a year ago. The other competitor for the contract was Rafael’s Python-5 AAM. The ASRAAM for Jaguar has been designated as the ‘new generation close combat missile’ (NGCCM) by the IAF.
The ASRAAM will be fitted on the Jaguar in a unique over-wing configuration allowing for maximum space below the wings remaining available for the Jaguar’s payload of air-to-ground weapons. The ASRAAM will be the sole AAM type fitted on the Jaguar for self-protection needs and the ASRAAM offers both close combat and near BVR capabilities. The missile is extremely fast off the rail and also features phenomenal acquisition ranges. The ASRAAM’s unrivalled ‘snap-up’ capability will offer the low-flying strike fighter an optimum means of defeating his adversary. ASRAAM provides an unrivalled self-protection zone. The ASRAAM will allow the Jaguar pilot to pull high ‘g’ manoeuvres while firing the missile without fear of compromising separation from the launch rail, say MBDA officials. Part of the Jaguar upgrade programme involves Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) and here ASRAAM can offer proven digital interface and functionality.