Bangalore: Getting technically sounder, the Indian Air Force would soon be having track of the enemy's Aircrafts through air without any Airplane or chopper. The elite force has stepped up to get an indigenous 'Airborne Early Warning and Control also called AEW&C'. The AEW&C is an airborne radar system.
Chief of Air Staff NAK Browne told reporters here in Bangalore on Thursday about this new addition to track Indian skies. He said, "We will start flying the indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) soon after its addition for extensive flight trials for induction and functioning by April 2014."
To strengthen its surveillance network, the IAF has tied up with the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in 2007 to induct three indigenously built airborne radar systems atop three modified Embraer jets at a cost of Rs.2,157 crore ($399 million).
The airborne radar system is meant to identify aerial threats from enemy fighters to cruise missiles and also serve the Indian Air Force fighters to combat from above while operations through jets and choppers. It also helps in troop build ups on the ground.
The airborne radar has an active electronically scanned array (AESA) atop the customised EMG-145 fuselage and about 60 antennae and sensors over the body of the 4.5-tonne aircraft which has been designed and developed by a Bangalore based Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) of DRDO to detect enemy aircraft, battle ships and terrain vehicles at long ranges.
"For the first time, the aircraft has air-to-air refueling system to extend its flying hours (time-on-station). The cabin has been reconfigured to have five operator work stations, four equipment racks, additional fuselage fuel tanks and five rest crew seats," CABS director and AEW&C programme director S. Christopher said on the occasion of handing over the aircraft to IAF.
Noting that the radar system was a complex project, Browne said the programme was part of IAF's long-term vision to indigenise its operational requirements and a starting point for more complex surveillance platforms.
"We will use the AEW&C system along with the (Israeli-built) Phalcon airborne warning and control system (AWACS) platform with the AESA mounted atop the IL-76 (Russian built Illyushin) to enhance our air warfare," Browne said.
The IAF has bought three Phalcon AWACS on IL-76 for $1.1 billion under a tripartite agreement with Israel and Russia in 2004.
Terming the reception of the aircraft from Embraer a milestone, DRDO director-general (R&D) V.K. Saraswat said the AEW&C system would put India into the elite group of developing such a complex surveillance platform.
"The world is watching this radar with bated breath as its development will benefit Embraer and DRDO to collaborate for producing a cost-effective and formidable force multipliers in the global market," Saraswat, who is also scientific adviser to Defence Minister A.K. Antony, said on the occasion.