The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has got the nod of the government’s highest decision-making body to soon develop an indigenous ‘eye-in-the-sky’, a critical force multiplier that can keep tab on enemy military activity from a safe distance.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, gave its nod to the proposal from the DRDO for indigenous development of the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWAC) on February 12 this year, Defence Minister A K Antony has informed Parliament.
The project will be called AWACS (India) and is envisaged to complete the work in 84 months from the date for formal sanction of the programme, he said.
The project was approved “to leverage the experience and expertise gained in the design and development of airborne early warning and control systems (AEW&CS)” for the Indian Air Force (IAF). Now, the IAF operates three AWACS as force multipliers for specific area cover and not for surveillance of the entire Indian territory.
All the three AWACS, which are large aircraft-mounted radars, are part of the network centric operations of the IAF and are able to provide adequate coverage of specified areas, Antony said. “Enhancement of airborne surveillance and command and control capabilities of the IAF is sought to be achieved through procurement of additional AWACs,” he added.
The long-term integrated perspective plan (LTIPP) of the Defence Ministry envisages deployment of a mix of large AWACS and small AEW&CS aircraft.
While three AWACS have been operationalised in the IAF, there is a proposal for procurement of two additional AWACS. Simultaneously, the DRDO is engaged in indigenous development of three AEW&C systems.
The procurement of two additional AWACS is a follow-on order to the `5,200-crore tripartite agreement among India, Israel and Russia in 2004 under which the IAF inducted three Israeli Phalcon AWACS mounted on Russian IL-76 aircraft in 2009-10.
The AWACS and the AEW&C systems can detect incoming aerial threats ranging from fighters to cruise missiles and even troops movement on the ground. The systems send data to warn military commanders of the threats and for taking pre-emptive actions against the enemy.
The platforms enable faster sensor-to-shooter loop, quicker defensive or offensive response against the enemy military manoeuvre.
The plans to develop indigenous AWACS comes at a time when China has already inducting 20 such platforms, including a few older platforms.
Pakistan too is gaining an upper hand over India, having inducted four Swedish Saab-2000 AWACS and is now on the verge of getting four Chinese ZDK-03 AWACS.