New Delhi: Rs 9,000 crore joint proposal by Indian Air Force (IAF) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for purchase of two Airbus 330s and converting them into 360-degree long-range capability Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) now awaits nod from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) having approved it last month.
The entire project is estimated to take three years after the clearance by CCS.
“The need for more AWACS was acutely felt post the Balakot air strike, with Pakistan being able to deploy its SAAB AWACS 24×7 in the north and south sectors and India being able to cover the two theatres only for 12 hours each day,” official sources said.
The DRDO has also decided to hand over a third Embraer-mounted Airborne Early Warning System to the IAF (Indian Air Force) to further enhance Indian capability in battlefield theatre. The IAF already has two Israeli PHALCON radars mounted on a Russian A-50 platform and two DRDO-developed radars mounted on Embraer platforms.
According to the proposal cleared by the DAC, the Airbus AWACS will be a 50:50 joint venture between the DRDO and the IAF. Once the aircraft are purchased, the DRDO will mount a 360-degree rotor dome radar along with state of the art communication capability to guide the IAF fighters and attack helicopters in future war theatres.
The AWACS not only tracks the aerial threat, be it a fighter or a missile, but also guides the counter-response. Had it not been for PHALCON AWACS, the Indian response to the February 27 Pakistani counter-strike would have been weak and the IAF would never have known that Wing Commander Abhinandan had downed a Pakistan Air Force fighter code-named Red Mike on the radar. Whether Red Mike was an American F-16 sold by Jordan to Pakistan or any other fighter is still not confirmed.