The Indian Air Force (IAF) will soon fly the first indigenous airborne radar system mounted on the Brazilian Embraer jet for flight trials and induction by April 2014.
"We will start flying the indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) soon after its integration for extensive flight trials for induction and operationalisation in April 2014," chief of air staff NAK Browne told reporters in Bangalore on Thursday.
To strengthen its surveillance network, the IAF has tied up with the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in 2007 to induct three indigenously built airborne radar systems atop three modified Embraer jets at a cost of Rs. 2,157 crore ($399 million).
The airborne radars are meant to detect aerial threats from enemy fighters to cruise missiles and serve IAF fighters in combat operations with enemy jets and help in tracking troop build-ups on the ground.
Designed and developed by the city-based Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) of DRDO to detect enemy aircraft, battle ships and terrain vehicles at long ranges the airborne radar has an active electronically scanned array (AESA) atop the customised EMG-145 fuselage and about 60 antennae and sensors over the body of the 4.5-tonne aircraft.
"For the first time, the aircraft has air-to-air refueling system to extend its flying hours (time-on-station). The cabin has been reconfigured to have five operator work stations, four equipment racks, additional fuselage fuel tanks and five rest crew seats," CABS director and AEW&C programme director S Christopher said on the occasion of handing over the aircraft to IAF.
Noting that the radar system was a complex project, Browne said the programme was part of IAF's long-term vision to indigenise its operational requirements and a starting point for more complex surveillance platforms.
"We will use the AEW&C system along with the (Israeli-built) Phalcon airborne warning and control system (AWACS) platform with the AESA mounted atop the IL-76 (Russian built Illyushin) to enhance our air warfare," Browne said.
The IAF has bought three Phalcon AWACS on IL-76 for $1.1 billion under a tripartite agreement with Israel and Russia in 2004.
Terming the reception of the aircraft from Embraer a milestone, DRDO director-general (R&D) VK Saraswat said the AEW&C system would put India into the elite group of developing such a complex surveillance platform.
"The world is watching this radar with bated breath as its development will benefit Embraer and DRDO to collaborate for producing a cost-effective and formidable force multipliers in the global market," Saraswat, who is also scientific adviser Defence Minister AK Antony, said on the occasion.