Eye-in-the-sky: IAF inducts its first AWACS (Lead)

May 28th, 2009 - 2:42 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) The Indian Air Force (IAF) Thursday got its first “eye-in-the-sky” with the induction of the first of the three airborne early warning and control systems (AWACS) which will help it detect incoming flying weapons and listen-in to aerial communications.
Defence minister A.K. Antony formally inducted the giant IL-76 aircraft, configured in its new avatar, at the Palam Air Base in the national capital.

“For the real time control of combat assets we require real time intelligence which will be provided by the AWACS. The AWACS will form and important part of command and control system and for increasing the transparency of the battlefield,” IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major told reporters.

The remaining two AWACS are expected to be delivered by the year end.

A major step towards network centric operations, the induction of AWACS has catapulted India into the league of six nations - the US, Russia, Britain, Japan, Australia and Turkey - which operate aircrafts of this class.

With its ability to detect aircrafts, cruise missiles and other flying objects at ranges far greater than is possible through existing systems, the AWACS can also collate surface information about troop movements and missile launches even while “listening-in” to highly confidential communications between the enemy’s front line units.

To this extent, the AWACS, as a potent force-multiplier, are expected to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the IAF’s offensive and defensive operations. Given the intensity and pace of modern-day air warfare, the AWACS will provide an impregnable aerial umbrella to neutralise any incoming threat.

“It will be a complete transformation of capabilities….In future we may need more of these. It is unique and designed to suit our needs,” Major added.

“We are using this asset for the first time and it will take us a while before we know how many more we require. But seeing the expanse of our country we will need more of these.”

The airframe of the Russian aircraft has been changed to accommodate the Israeli radar system under a tripartite agreement. The AWACS carries the largest and heaviest dome. With its 360 degree phased-array radars they will form the IAF’s “eyes and ears-in-the-sky”.

The aircraft, in the newly formed 50 Squadron, will be stationed at Agra, the largest and one of the most strategically important airbases in the country.

Dedicating AWACS to the nation, Antony expressed his “anxieties” about the other two AWACS being delivered on time.

“The project was signed in 2004… five years is too long a time… I hope the governments of Russia and Israel and the hard work of our people will help us in getting the other two AWACS on time,” Antony said while addressing the gathering, including the Israeli and Russian ambassadors, present during the induction system.

The $1.1 billion deal for the three AWACS was signed in 2004. The AWACS flew from Israel to the Jamnagar airbase in Gujarat this week escorted by IAF’s combat jets.

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