India will upgrade its Dassault Mirage 2000H strike aircraft after the Cabinet Committee on Security approved the long-anticipated programme.
The Indian air force confirmed widespread reports in the Indian media that the deal has been finalised, but declined to provide specific details on the exact cost or contents of the deal.
The contract is likely to cover upgrades to engines, avionics, navigation systems, mission computers, electronic warfare equipment and the Thales RDY-2 fire control radar.
The work, to be undertaken by Dassault, Thales and Hindustan Aeronautics, will bring India's 51 aircraft to the Mirage 2000-9 standard. The service hopes to add a 20-year lifespan to the aircraft, which were introduced between 1985 and 1989.
Reports suggest the first two Mirages will be upgraded in France, with HAL to upgrade the remainder in India.
India first announced its intention to modernise its Mirages in 2004. The aircraft became popular in the Indian air force after performing well at high altitudes during the Kargil conflict against Pakistan in 1999.
© US Air Force
Indian media has consistently pegged the value of the upgrade at $2.2 billion, or roughly $43 million per aircraft. Reports suggest that this figure does not include new weapons, such as the MBDA Mica short-range air-to-air missile. Some estimates put the cost of the weapons package, which the Indian cabinet needs to approve separately, at $700 million.
The deal's price tag had reportedly been a stumbling block to its closure. The plan was largely expected to be signed during visits by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to India in 2008 and 2010, but neither trip produced an agreement.
New Delhi's Mirage upgrade is the latest in a series of major overseas defence aviation purchases. In June, it signed a $4.1 billion order for 10 Boeing C-17 transports. In January 2009, India ordered eight 737-based P-8I Neptune maritime patrol aircraft for $2.1 billion, making it the type's first overseas customer. In late 2008, it also signed up for six Lockheed Martin C-130Js, its first major purchase of US defence equipment in decades.
India is also in the process of choosing the winner of its medium multi-role combat aircraft contest, which will see it acquire 126 fighters in a deal worth $10.2 billion.
The two remaining contenders are the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon. In April, India announced the elimination of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed F-16IN Super Viper, RSK MiG-35 and Saab Gripen NG.