New Delhi: India`s first indigenously-developed Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system is ready and is being sent to Brazil shortly to be integrated with an Embraer 145 jet.
The development is a major milestone in India`s quest for self-reliance in advanced radars and, based on the success of this system, both the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy (IN) could acquire a number of them over the coming years. For the present though, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is developing three of them for the IAF, and has accordingly ordered three Embraer 145 long-range jets.
DRDO`s Chief Controller (SI) Prahlada, one of India`s most distinghished military technology scientists, told India Strategic defence magazine that the first Embraer is due to roll out in Jan 2011, and the Indian AEW&C radar will be integrated on it by 2011-end.
It should take a couple of years to fully certify the system.
Notably, the IAF and the IN need varying levels of radar capabilities, from short- to long-range and wide area coverage. The IAF has already taken possession of two Israeli Phalcon AWACs fixed on Russian IL 76 aircraft and the third is due early next year. Two more have been ordered. The IAF is also looking at the Boeing 737-700 AEW&C equipped with Northrop Grumman`s Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar, the type already sold to Australia.
The Indian Navy is ordering 12 Boeing P8-I Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMAs) but it will also need some indigenous capability to complement this capability. It is also considering Northrop Grumman`s carrier-borne Hawkeye 2D, an advanced version of Hawkeye 2C now being used by the US Navy.
The AWACS and AEW&C systems are advanced radars, absolutely essential in contemporary defence requirements for long-range and precision engagement to neutralize hostile targets.
Both the Indian Navy and the IAF should require at least 20 each of them, although on different platforms and different capabilities.
According to Prahlada, the Indian AEW&C is an Active Phased Array Radar, derived from indigenous effort to "look some few hundred km" 360 degrees by rapidly scanning the area around it for airborne and ground threats.
The system is to be equipped with Identification Friend and Foe (IFF), Missile Atack Warning, Electronic Support Measures (ESM), Communication Support Measures (CSM) and secure satellite and wireless datalinks with Air Force Net (AFNET) and IAF and Navy fighters as well as the AWACS platforms.
The Embraer aircraft will be modified for mid-air refueling to extend their 3,000 km-plus range. Its sophisticated mission computers, already installed on aircraft like the IAF`s Sukhoi SU-30MKIs, are indigenous.
DRDO`s Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) has designed the indigenous radar, partly perhaps learning from Israel`s Greenpine radar, one or two of which were sold to India some years ago without software.
Many European countries are keen for collaboration with DRDO, and with the US also now lifting sanctions on DRDO during the Obama visit, the development of the indigenous AEW&C is likely to pick up in terms of both capability and speed.