Major indigenous project for 6 powerful 'eyes in the sky' AWACS gets govt approval
New Delhi/IBNS: India will have more powerful "eyes in the sky" to look deep into the territory of the enemy by inducting six state-of-the-art airborne warning and control aircrafts.
A deal of close to Rs 11,000 crore has been approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security on Wednesday.
In December 2020, the Times of India reported that India plans to launch a major Rs 10,500 crore project to indigenously developed six airborne warning and control system (AWACS).
Under this project, indigenous 360 degree coverage AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radars will be mounted on six aircrafts acquired from Air India, according to media reports.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is likely to work on the smaller A-320 variants from the existing Air India fleets.
The DRDO will structurally modify them and then mount the radars on them. These radars are made-in-India and the modernised version of AESA radar installed on two Netra airborne warning aircraft already deployed by the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The IAF also has three larger, A-50 EI aircraft bought from Russia which are mounted with Israel-made EL/W-2090 'Phalcon' radar system.
AESA is a computer-controlled radar array in which radio beams can be electronically steered to point in different directions without moving the antenna. These are more accurate, more reliable and offer better detection capability when compared with legacy systems, said an NDTV report.
According to the TOI report cited above, this project is actually recast of an earlier plan to install the indigenous AESA radar on two new Airbus A-330 wide body jets, which was being delayed for the last five years.
The new project is also likely to be more cost-effective than the previous one which involved acquiring the airplanes from the European multinational company.
The TOI report said that India felt acute operational need for additional AWACS during the Balakot strikes and the subsequent aerial skirmish with Pakistani fighters in February last year. It has been further reinforced by the ongoing military confrontation with China in Eastern Ladakh.
The report further stated that India needs at least 10 AWACS but have not been able to do so due to high cost.
The IAF had been seeking approval for two more Israeli Phalcons mounted on Russian A-50 aircraft, worth over $1.5 billion, but it is still pending approval from the Cabinet Committee on security, the TOI report said.
India is lagging far behind not only China but even Pakistan in this respect. Pakistan has 8-10 Chinese Karakoram Eagle ZDK-03 AWACS and Swedish Saab-2000 AEW&C. China in turn has around 30, including Kong Jing 2000 "Mainring", KJ 2000 "Moth" and KJ-500 aircraft, according to the TOI's December report.