India is now going to launch its own full-blown futuristic AWACS (airborne warning and control system) programme. 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) after obtain clearances. 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.
China has around 20 AWACS, a mix of new and old systems and Pakistan already has four Swedish Saab-2000 AEW&C aircraft, with four more Chinese ZDK-03 AWACS in the pipeline, sources said. 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 fronts.
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.