IAF’s first AWACS arrives, induction Thursday

May 25th, 2009 - 5:20 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) Escorted by combat jets, the first of three Indian Air Force (IAF) “eye-in-the-sky” airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) flew in from Israel to the Jamnagar airbase in Gujarat Monday and will be formally inducted into the force here Thursday.
The giant IL-76 heavy transport aircraft, configured in its new avatar, was escorted by three MiG-29s and an equal number of Jaguars as it entered Indian airspace.

“The fighter formations caught up with the AWACS mid-air and escorted it as it entered the Indian FIR (Flight Information Region) to touch down at the Jamnagar airbase close to midday today (Monday),” IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Tarun Kumar Singha said.

South Western Air Command chief Air Marshal K.D. Singh and other senior officers welcomed the crew of the AWACS aircraft, including the commanding officer of IAF’s first AWACS squadron, Group Captain B. Saju.

“It was a great feeling to be escorted by our fighters and it feels really good to be back,” Saju said on arrival.

The aircraft undertook an eight-and-a-half hour flight from Ovda International Airport, located in southern Israel, skirting around Pakistan and Iran and taking the aerial route over the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea before landing at Jamnagar.

The aircraft is slated to arrive at Palam airport on Tuesday where an induction ceremony is scheduled on May 28. The AWACS are slated to operate from the Agra airbase.

With the induction of the AWACS, India will join a club of only six other nations - the US, Russia, Britain, Japan, Australia and Turkey - that operate such a sophisticated system. Other countries - notably Pakistan, Brazil and Greece - too operate AWACS but at a much lower end of the scale in terms of capability.

With its ability to detect aircraft, 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, will 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.

The $1.1 billion deal for the three AWACS was signed in 2004. The IAF is also likely to purchase three more systems, with delivery slated to be completed by 2012.

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