India is swiftly working towards providing the AWACS (airborne warning and control system) platform to the Air Force in order to distinguish between friendly and hostile aircraft from a standoff distance of hundreds of miles.
Even as the IAF prepares to induct its first Phalcon AWACS (airborne warning and control system) from Israel later this year, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is laying the groundwork to build its indigenous AWACS. Brazilian jets will also serve as eye in the sky for the air force with the DRDO on Thursday inking a $210 million deal with Brazilian manufacturer Embraer for three EMB-145 aircraft.
The indigenous AWACS mission system, comprising sub-systems such as radars, communication links and identification friend or foe electronic system, will be integrated onboard the Brazilian aircraft to present battlefield information tailored to the IAF's needs. The mission system is being developed by DRDO's Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS).
Embraer is expected to deliver the first of the three aircraft sometime in 2011, with the system scheduled for flight-testing a year later.
The air force got a taste of operating in the AWACS environment for the first time in October 2006 during the Indo-UK joint air exercise Indradhanush in Gwalior. The Royal Air Force had flown its E3D Sentry AWACS to India for exploiting the full potential of its Tornado F3 intercepters taking part in the exercise.
The IAF has been looking forward to the Phalcon AWACS for a while now but its induction has been marred by delays. Critical for the IAF, which is polishing its trans-oceanic capabilities, the AWACS will allow Indian combat pilots better situational awareness over land or water far away from Indian boundaries.