Development of airborne surveillance system on target: Antony

March 10th, 2008 - 9:52 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, March 10 (IANS) India’s ambitious project to indigenously develop an Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) is on schedule and is likely to meet its 2011 target, parliament was informed Monday. “Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is pursuing development of Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) at a cost of Rs.18 billion with a probable date of completion in the year 2011,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

The AWACS would be equipped with indigenous radars, he added.

India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) that is chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had revived the project in 2004 and had given DRDO seven years to complete it.

The revival came five years after a DRDO technology demonstrator mounted on a turbo-prop HS-748 aircraft crashed in Tamil Nadu, killing some DRDO scientists and technicians associated with the project.

While the DRDO is believed to be considering the Brazilian Embraer Legacy as the platform for mounting the AWACS, the Indian Air Force (IAF) that is its co-developer and which will operate the system, is unhappy with this - saying a larger aircraft is required.

The IAF is understood to have recommended either the Boeing-737 or the Airbus A-319/320, pointing out that the Embraer has altitude and endurance limitations.

DRDO contends that this would push up costs by 40-45 percent, forcing the issue to be reconsidered by the CCS. DRDO’s Bangalore-based Centre for Air Borne Systems (CABS) is developing the AWACS.

The delay in the development of the indigenous system had prompted the IAF to sign a $1 billion deal for mounting the Israeli Phalcon AWACS on three Russian Il-78 heavy-lift aircraft.

The first of these aircraft were to have been delivered in 2007 but this has now been pushed back to later this year.

Experts say that the Phalcon system, once it arrives, will put large parts of Pakistan, including that part of Kashmir it controls, under Indian surveillance.

This will give India a strategic advantage over Pakistan as essentially what the Phalcon will do is to provide over-the-horizon surveillance capability that allows directing air defence operations in a more efficient manner in terms of providing command and control.

With future wars being fought from space with extensive use of space technology, the AWACS would play a major role. War room strategies would be worked out using AWACS and satellites that would beam vital information from space to earth stations.

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