The Government of India’s Modi-led Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on Wednesday has green signaled a near INR 1,100 Crore project of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to develop six new Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft for the Indian Air Force, Indian media reported.
This DRDO project entails mounting indigenous 360-degree AESA (active electronically scanned array) radars on six Airbus-321, which were formerly part of the Air India fleet.
This AESA radar is already installed on two Netra airborne warning aircraft already deployed by the Indian Air Force, Indian media agency NDTV noted, however the 360-degree coverage of the new AEW&C will be an added advantage over the Netras.
It is worth mentioning that the AESA is a computer-controlled radar array in which radio beams can be electronically steered to point in different directions without moving the antenna. AESA radars are more accurate, more reliable, and offer better detection capability when compared with legacy systems.
The Indian military also operates 3 larges, A-50 El aircrafts procured from Russia fitted with Israel’s EL/W-2090 ‘Phalcon’ radar system.
According to The Print, now the six Airbus aircraft will be modified, and the indigenous Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar will be mounted on them.
The DRDO will now issue RFP seeking bids for modification for the six-passenger aircraft. Since Airbus is the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), the firm is the frontrunner to bag the contract.
The majority of the INR 1,100 crore will go towards the modification and militarization of the six aircraft, Indian media reported.
AEW&C or AWACS aircraft can detect incoming fighters, cruise missiles, and drones much before ground-based radars, direct friendly fighters during air combat with energy jets, and keep their eyes on enemy strategic movements.
It is worth mentioning that Pakistan in 2019 also received 3 sets of radar equipment from Swedish firm Saab at Base Nur Khan in Chaklala, Rawalpindi, adding to the already existing fleet of three Eriye AEW&C that the PAF already has.
These were three Erieye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) radar systems for potential installation onto three Saab 2000 aircraft. The twin-engine Saab 2000 aircraft were procured by the Directorate General Defence Purchase of Pakistan in 2018.
Similarly, China has around 30 AEW&C aircraft including Kong Jing-200 “Mainring”, KJ200 “Moth”, and KJ-500 aircraft.