With the visit of the new President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, to India last month India and France are set to upgrade their defence ties.
5 new agreements were signed:
The agreement between French Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Atomic Energy was for constructing and operating Jules Hotowitz (JH) reactor.
An MoU that establishes cooperation between the Baba Atomic Research Centre and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research on the one hand and GANIL on the other on the use of spiral 2 high intensity beam production system will be signed in Mumbai.
Both countries also agreed to intensify exchanges between their nuclear scientists, establish structures for training and undertake nuclear safety research.
In addition, the dialogue between nuclear safety authorities of respective countries will be reinforced, especially in the context of future industrial cooperation.
In the defence sector, an agreement was signed on mutual protection of classified information while both sides agreed to take defence ties beyond buyer-seller relationship.
They decided to initiate detailed discussion on Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and agreed to intensify joint programmes and prospects in defence industry, conduct joint research and facilitate transfer of technology.
Agreements were also signed on transfer of sentenced prisoners and on India-French Development Cooperation through French Development Agency.
An MoU was also signed on establishing an International Associated Laboratory in the field of Neuro Science.
The highlight of the visit was a multi-billion Euro deal for upgrading India's Mirage 2000 fleet of fighter aircraft.
Under the deal, worth 1.5 billion Euros cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security, the Indian Mirages would be upgraded to Mirage 2000-9 levels as flown by the French Air Force.
Through the upgradation, the Indian Air Force is planning to increase the life of its Mirage fighters by 25 years.
The upgradation will involve advanced radars, avionics and arming them with air-to-air missiles with longer reach beyond visual range.
This deal was under negotiations the past year between HAL and Dassault:
HAL and Dassault are all set to sign a $800 million deal for a comprehensive upgrade of the Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 fleet which boasts of over 50 fighter jets.
The upgrades include:
-- New avionics, including an advanced navigation system, mission computers, Mil 1553 B data with Digibus, a pulse doppler radar that can find objects out to 70 nautical miles
-- Two displays and an advanced head-down display in a glass cockpit
-- Electronic warfare systems, including new radar warning receivers with instantaneous wide-bank receivers, an integrated missile warning receiver with continuous time-to-impact information, and new jammers and countermeasure systems
-- Increased fuel capacity
-- Four Derby beyond-visual-range missiles
-- Two short-to-medium-range Python V missiles
-- Long-range smart munitions
-- Full mission simulators
After some negotiations the French defence and aerospace company Thales was also included in the upgrade programme:
"I think, things are finally moving forward," said Jean-Paul Perrier, executive vice president for the $17-billion French giant, referring to the government's intention since two years ago to upgrade its fleet of 51 Mirage 2000 fighters.
"We have the full knowledge and the solutions for a low-risk and cost-effective upgrade of Mirage 2000. Thales will also cooperate with Indian and other French industries for the project," Perrier said.
Apart from HAL, other Indian companies that are expected to partner with Thales in the upgrade project include the Department of Aviation Research and Bharat Electronics Ltd that has had a long association with the French company.
The Thales-HAL consortium will include Dassault, which shut down the production line for Mirage 2000s five years ago.
And in related news the IAF is to get 40 additional Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) aircraft:
Continuing with its flurry of big-ticket defence deals, India is now firmly on course to acquire another 40 British 'Hawk' advanced jet-trainers (AJTs) to add to the 66 such aircraft already contracted in the Rs 8,000-crore project finalized in March 2004.
Though the IAF has been asking for 40 more Hawks for quite some time now, sources said the new procurement has only now been cleared by the Defence Acquisitions Council, chaired by defence minister A K Antony.
Five of the 'flyaway' Hawks from UK have already arrived at Bidar airbase in north Karnataka, earmarked as the hub for all IAF fighter training in the country, with the older MiG-21 training establishments at Tezpur, Bhuj, Jamnagar and Nalia being gradually disbanded.
Antony is likely to go to Bidar on February 23 for the formal 'commissioning ceremony' of the Hawks. Thereafter, from June onwards, IAF will begin using the AJTs to impart stage-III training to newly-commissioned fighter pilots.
"The proposal will be placed before the Cabinet Committee on Security for the final nod very soon. The 40 new Hawks will be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which is already gearing up to take on the production of 42 AJTs from the earlier deal," said a source.
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