Bengaluru: The Indian Air Force (IAF) will finally induct the first indigenously developed all-weather airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system— ‘Eye in the Sky’— at the Aero India 2017, in Bengaluru, augmenting its ability to detect incoming cruise missiles, fighter jets or even drones from both Pakistan and China.
The Rs 2,400 crore project will see the first aircraft inducted on February 14, while the second one will be delivered in a few months. TOI had first reported in January that the AeW&CS is ready for induction, and Defence Research and Development Organisation chairman S Christopher, on Saturday told reporters that the induction will happen at Aero India.
Experts have pointed out that India is lagging behind in this aspect of defence capability in comparison with both China and Pakistan. Presently India has only three Phalcon airborne warning and control system (AWACS), which uses the Israeli early-warning radars mounted in domes on top of IL-76 aircraft.
The indigenous AEW&C system, developed by the Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) in Bengaluru and integrated on Brazilian-made Embraer-145 aircraft, will add to the capabilities along with the three Phalcon systems.
The system is equipped with a 240-degree coverage radars in contrast to the existing Phalcons, which provide a 360-degree coverage over a 400-km range. The AEW&C system will detect, identify and classify threats present in the surveillance area and act as a Command and Control Centre to support Air Defence operations.
“It is equipped with multiple communication and data links that can alert and direct fighters against threats while providing Recognizable Air Surveillance Picture (RASP) to commanders at the Ground Exploitation Stations (GES) that are strategically located,” DRDO has said.
Besides, the system will support IAF in offensive strike missions and assist forces in the tactical battle area.
However, this addition and even the other two in the pipeline will not put India on a par with China or even Pakistan.
China has over 20 AWACS, including the new KJ-500 ones that can track over 60 aircraft at ranges up to 470km, while Pakistan, on the other hand has four Swedish Saab-2000 AeW&C aircraft and four Chinese-origin ZDK-03 (KJ-200) AWACS.
Keeping this in mind, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), in March 2016 cleared building of two Awacs, which will involve mounting indigenous 360-degree coverage AESA (active electronically scanned array) radars on Airbus A-330 wide-body jets.
The estimated cost of this project is Rs 9,000 to Rs 10,000 crore and the eventual plan is to induct eight such aircraft under the “Awacs -India”.
Christopher, further added with negotiations complete, the file will move be moved to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). “We are expecting the clearance soon and we have a timeline of 84 months for the project,” Christopher said.