“Clearances are underway” to initially develop two AWACS aircraft, with four more to follow at a later stage, under the new `AWACS-India’ project to be executed by DRDO and its Bangalore-based Centre for Air Borne Systems (CABS). Under it, 360-degree AESA (active electronically scanned array) radars will be mounted on large aircraft like IL-76, Boeing or Airbus,” said official sources from DRDO.
Sources have cited that Pakistan is in possession of 4 Swedish Saab-2000 AEW & C aircraft. They have planned the purchase of 4 Chinese ZDK-03 AWACS. China on its part has 20 AWACS, an amalgam of both new and old systems.
However, India lags far behind with just 3 Phalcon AWACS that are mounted on IL-76 aircraft. They have been stationed under the $1.1 billion tripartite agreement between India, Israel and Russia, which was finalized in 2004, in spite of being confronted with 2 potentially hostile fronts. The need to have 2 additional “follow-on” Phalcon AWACS that has a range of more than 400-km and 360-degree coverage had earlier been stalled owing to cost escalation. The ongoing mini-AWACS project from DRDO, under which indigenous AEW&C systems will be mounted on 3 Embraer-145 jets that have been secured from Brazil for $210-million, has not taken off in spite of its approval in October, 2004. But according to DRDO, the project is now on track.
“CABS will get the first Embraer, modified with antenna units and other structures mounted on its fuselage, in July,” stated official sources. “All electronic systems, with a normal radar range of 250-km and a 240-degree coverage, will then be integrated. The first flight should take place in should take place in early-2013. The project completion date is April 2014,” added the source.
AWACS or Airborne Early Warning And Control systems which are known potent multipliers change the entire scenario of air combat owing to their swiftness in detecting incoming any form of aerial threat. The threats can come in the form of fighter jets and cruise missiles. The action is implemented faster than those done by ground-based radars. They also aid in detecting air defence fighters and tracking troop build-ups.
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