On February 14, the day Aero India 2017 begins, the IAF will be the proud owner of its very own indigenous all-weather airborne early warning and control system popularly known as the AEW&C.This aerial platform is meant to be a force multiplier that will guide the IAF’s fighter aircraft during combat. It will have the capability to detect incoming fighters, cruise missiles and even drones from both Pakistan and China.
For Dr. Christopher, Chairman, DRDO it will be a fine day indeed. He was earlier the Programme Director (airborne early warning and control system) and Director, Centre for Air-Borne Systems in the DRDO before being elevated to the topmost post.
Speaking exclusively to India Today, he said that his association with the early warning system programme goes back to 1985 when it all started. He also had a narrow escape having flown on the same test aircraft as a flight engineer that crashed in January 1999. ‘I flew on that same test aircraft, the previous sortie, the last but one sortie before it crashed,’ he told India Today.
The indigenous AEW&C system has been developed by Bengaluru based CABS and integrated onto a Brazilian built Embraer-145 aircraft. It is equipped with a 240-degree coverage radar and can detect, identify and classify threats in the surveillance area and also act as a Command and Control Centre to support Air Defence operations.
Dr. CP Ramanarayanan, Director General – Aeronautical Systems (Aero) participated in the final trials of the AEW&C. ‘I was onboard this flight in Jodhpur and it was so heartening to see all the functional performance requirements were met meticulously,’ he says. According to him the users (IAF) observed that this was such a trial they have never undergone. So while the second AEW&C will be handed over to the IAF in a few months time, the third which was initially to be with CABS, will also be handed over to the IAF.
LOTS OF CATCHING UP TO DO
China today has more than 20 AWACS and Pakistan has 8 AWACS, India on the other hand has just this one AEW&C and 3 Phalcon systems. To play catch up, in March 2016, the Defence Acquisition Council cleared the building of 2 AWACS-India.
These systems will be much more powerful and capable than the AEW&C and will involve mounting an indigenous 360-degree coverage AESA radar on an Airbus A-330 jet. ‘As far as the functionality is concerned, both are identical. However, the new one is much more capable with extended range and better angular coverage,’ Dr. S Christopher says. The requirement of the IAF is for 8 AWACS-I aircraft.
As of today, Dr. Christopher says the file will be moved to the Cabinet Committee on Security and they are hoping to secure clearance anytime soon with a developmental timeframe of close to 7 years.
Trilok Singh, With the help of Author Nolan Pinto, it Posted by Bijin Jose.