India To Launch AWACS Project To Counter China

Indian Phalcon AWACS
Indian Phalcon AWACS
In India 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 a DRDO source.

Potent force-multipliers like AWACS or AEW&C (airborne early warning
and control) systems have changed the entire nature of air warfare
because they can detect incoming aerial threats, ranging from fighters
to cruise missiles, much before ground-based radars.

They also serve to direct air defence fighters during combat operations
with enemy jets and also help in tracking troop build-ups.

Pakistan already has four Swedish Saab-2000 AEW&C aircraft, with
four more Chinese ZDK-03 AWACS in the pipeline. China has around 20
AWACS, a mix of new and old systems, say sources.

But IAF has only three Phalcon AWACS mounted on IL-76 aircraft, under
the $1.1 billion tripartite agreement among India, Israel and Russia
finalized in 2004, despite being confronted with two potentially hostile

The case for two additional “follow-on” Phalcon AWACS, with a range
of over 400-km and 360-degree coverage like the first three, has run
into some rough weather due to sharp cost escalation.

Moreover, DRDO’s ongoing mini-AWACS project, under which indigenous
AEW&C systems are to be mounted on three Embraer-145 jets obtained
from Brazil for $210-million, has also slipped after being approved in
October, 2004, at a cost of Rs 1,800 crore.

DRDO, however, contends 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,” said an official.

“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 early-2013. The project completion date is April 2014,”
said an official.

IAF is awaiting the completion of the mini-AWACS project as well as the
launch of the larger ‘AWACS-India’ programme with crossed fingers. AWACS
also constitute a crucial constituent of its IACCS (integrated air
command and control system) programme, the fully-automated network being
set up to integrate the wide array of military radars with each other
as well as with civilian radars to plug surveillance gaps in Indian