India’s Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) will develop six Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF) to keep an eye on rivals China and Pakistan.
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The move is yet another step in making India self-reliant in the defense sector, and will further enhance IAF’s surveillance capabilities along the tense Indo-China and Indo-Pakistan borders.
According to government sources, DRDO will develop the aircraft under a Rs 10,500-crore project. Six planes will be acquired from the national carrier, Air India, for the project. The aircraft will then be modified to fly with radars that will provide a 360-degree surveillance capability to the armed forces.
“The six AWACS block two planes would be highly capable than their predecessor NETRA plane and provide 360-degree coverage deep inside the enemy territory during missions. The government is expected to clear the project soon,” government sources told news agency ANI.
India is going to make 6 new Airborne Early Warning and Control planes, to be developed by @DRDO_India on aircraft from AIR INDIA.
Under a ₹10500 cr project AEW&C Block 2 six aircraft would be acquired from the "Air India" and modified to fly with a 360-deg panel radar pic.twitter.com/2sv5NL9vQi
— Defence Decode® (@DefenceDecode) December 16, 2020
The AWACS is a key part of modern warfare as it can detect and track incoming fighters, cruise missiles, and drones much before ground-based radars identify them.
It also acts as a mobile, long-range radar surveillance and control center for air defense, and helps nations in keeping tabs on enemy troop build-ups and movement of warships.
According to sources, India investing in the indigenous AWACS project could mean that New Delhi may not go ahead with its earlier plan of sending six Airbus 330 transport aircraft to its European manufacturer to modify the planes.
The latest project is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative in the field of defense.
In the past, the Block-I of the project had been delayed beyond its scheduled timelines. However, DRDO’s Centre for Airborne Studies lab now plans to complete it in a shorter timeframe.
Currently, the IAF possesses three PHALCON AWACS systems. These are Russian Ilyushin-76 transport aircraft equipped with Israeli radars.
According to the sources, the new AWACS planes will be stationed at different points across the country in order to maintain effective surveillance along the two critical borders.