India on Saturday took the first step towards developing an indigenous airborne warning and control system (AWACS), with the defence acquisition council (DAC) giving its go-ahead to a Rs 5,113 crore project involving mounting two such complex surveillance systems on the European Airbus A330 platform.
The DAC’s ‘acceptance of necessity’ for weapons and systems is the first step towards making proposed procurements.
The radar system to detect far off targets will be developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Airbus Defence & Space was the only bidder for the AWACS India programme, making it the first single vendor project to be cleared by the NDA government.
The IAF currently operates Israeli Phalcon AWACS mounted on Russian IL-76 heavy-lift planes. The system has a range of 400km. It is also on course to induct Brazilian Embraer airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system aircraft. The AEW&C systems developed by the DRDO are being installed on Embraer-145 jets imported from Brazil.
The approval for the AWACS India project paves the way for the country developing more complex airborne surveillance systems to detect incoming aerial threats such as hostile planes and missiles.
The AWACS is a robust monitoring system that provides 360-degree coverage, compared to AEW&C's 270-degree capability. The AWACS also has better range and endurance.
The projects cleared by the DAC, headed by defence minister Manohar Parrikar, include the purchase of 1,512 mine ploughs for T90 tanks for Rs 710 crore and 30 weapon-locating radars worth Rs 1,605 crore. The council also cleared the decks for retrofitting navy's four German HDW submarines with Boeing-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles for Rs 913 crore.
A global tender for 220 truck-mounted lifting devices worth Rs 24 crore was also approved by the DAC.
Several long-pending projects to modernise the military with next-generation submarines, anti-tank guided missiles, attack helicopters, heavy-lift choppers and tanks have gathered momentum during recent months following the DAC’s approval. Signing of contracts and final induction of equipment could take up to 10 years, with staggered payments being made at different stages.