In a bid to boost its aerial surveillance, India will buy six aircraft
1st Apr 2014
In a bid to boost its aerial surveillance, India will buy six aircraft that can be used for supporting its indigenous Airborne Warning and Control System (Awacs).
“A tender has been floated to global vendors for the supply of suitable aircraft with necessary structural modifications, power and endurance adaptations and equipment installation or installation provisions for the Awacs,” says an official at the defense ministry.
Though the type of aircraft hasn’t been specified, India is looking at acquiring a platform that can support an Awacs antenna dome, which is about 10 meters in diameter. The aircraft also should have provisions for the installation of all external and internal elements of the mission systems, the official adds.
Only original aircraft manufacturers are qualified to submit the bids. Also, “the vendors should be willing to support the product for a period not less than 30 years from the date of acceptance of the aircraft,” he says.
The vendor is also expected to support the Indian air force (IAF) in the installation of the mission systems. In March 2013, Defense Minister A.K. Antony said the indigenous development of Awacs was envisioned to be completed in 84 months. The program started in late 2013 and is expected to be completed by around 2020, assuming there are no delays.
IAF currently operates three Awacs platforms: Ilyushin IL-76s upgraded with Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) Phalcon Awacs radar and mission control systems, with a platform designation of A-50EI. The modified IL-76s already serves in Russia as the A-50 Awacs.
India has already activated a follow-on order for two additional A-50EIs from IAI.
According to the defense ministry official, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), which is developing the radars and sensors, is looking at either the Boeing-767 or Airbus A330 as the new platform. However, vendors such as Ilyushin, Antonov, Sukhoi, Bombardier and Saab could also be in the running.
India is also developing an Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system aircraft, based on the Embraer ERJ 145. “We have already developed one and two more are at their final stages,” an official of the Center for Airborne Systems (CABS) tells Aviation Week.
India purchased three EMB-145 to be converted into AEW&C platforms by the Bangalore-based CABS.
“We have in principle approval to develop five more of such systems,” he adds.
The flight test for the second AEW&C is underway and expected to be ready for induction in the next six to eight months. “And within three months we will deliver the third one,” the CABS official adds.
The EMB 145 AEW&C features inflight refueling capability, a significant increase in electric and cooling capacity and a comprehensive set of structural changes that have allowed the installation of the advanced mission systems developed by CABS along with the work centers of DRDO.
India’s foray into developing an Awacs platform in the 1980s, called Guardian/Airawat, ended in disaster in 1999 when its HS-748 turboprop Awacs testbed aircraft crashed, killing several engineers and scientists critical to the project.
India’s aim is to possess around 15 aerial surveillance and command aircraft, with varying levels of endurance and capability.