DRDO to Test Homegrown AWACS Next Year

By admin • November 8th, 2010

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India Defence Online, New Delhi — India is making substantial headway in its indigenous development of nine Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) and the first one will be ready for flight-tests by the end of 2011. Besides, the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has also revealed that it is developing two Aerostats for additional surveillance and communications.

The premier state-owned defence firm DRDO has involved five of its laboratories including the Centre for Airborne Systems, Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE), Defence Electronics Research Laboratory (DERL), Defence Electronics Application Laboratory and Electronics and Radar Development Establishment to be a part of the homegrown AWACS project. The AWACS will be 85 per cent indigenous, sources said.

The homegrown AWACS will augment the capabilities of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in terms of air defence, surveillance and network-centric operations. The DRDO indicated that three of the systems would be integrated on board the Brazilian Embraer EMB 145 jet and delivered by 2014. A sanction to the tune of Rs.10,000 crore has been given for six AWACS to the DRDO and the delivery to the IAF will commence from 2014. However, the base aircraft for the rest of the six AWACS is yet undecided.

Added to the AWACS project, the DRDO is also developing two variants of military Aerostats for the Indian Armed Forces. The DRDO indicated that the first type of the Aerostat will carry military payloads up to an altitude of 1,000 meters and the second type up to a height of 5,000 meters. The radar of the 1,000-metre aerostat would have a coverage of 150 kilometres while that of the 5,000 metre one would be up to 200-250 kilometres. A 1,000-metre Aerostat was already afloat and its functions have been demonstrated to both the Army and Air Force. Aerostats would be used for surveillance, jamming of electronic systems, intelligence data gathering and for communication relay.

The homemade AWACS project has been mired with delays from the beginning. The Indian government cleared the development of a homemade AWACS in 2004 and under the proposal worth $450 million, the first prototype of the AWACS was to fly by 2007 and the AWACS inducted into the Indian Air Force by 2010.

However, the IAF pointed out that the Embraer EMB-145 platform cannot fly above 40,000 feet and besides, the indigenous AWACS’s surveillance radar is only capable of 300 kilometres detection coverage of 240 degrees. All these factors make the Indian AWACS inadequate for effective surveillance. Hence, the IAF requested the selection of either a Boeing or an Airbus platform as the payload of the AWACS has increased from an earlier planned level of around 4500 kilograms to over 7000 kilograms, due to change in avionics and radar for the AWACS which is presently being developed. However, the DRDO warned that the Boeing or Airbus platform will inflate the price of the AWACS.

Source: India Defence Online

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