With Pakistan and China rapidly modernising their air forces, India has intensified efforts to fill the gaps in its aerial surveillance.
After handing over the first indigenously developed airborne early warning and control system, Netra, to the Indian Air Force at Aero India, the Defence Research and Development Organisation has set its sights on a much larger and more capable system.
India is also in negotiations with Israel to buy two more Phalcon Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) mounted on Russian IL-76 aircraft to add to the three systems in service. Officials are hopeful of concluding the deal before Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Tel Aviv possibly in June.
Future plans of DRDO
The DRDO has planned to develop a long-range AWACS with a 360-degree coverage like the Phalcon.
What is Phalcon?
The IAI EL/M-2075 Phalcon is an Airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) active electronically scanned array radar system developed by Israel. Its primary objective is to provide intelligence to maintain air superiority and conduct surveillance.
Comparison with present facilities
As the AWACS is much heavier, it needs a bigger aircraft. They would be based on an Airbus A-330. The present system gives a 240-degree coverage of airspace.
Previous attempts by India in this field
India had made similar attempts in the past, which ended tragically. The DRDO began a project in the 1980s to build an AWACS, later renamed Project Airawat, but it was cancelled after a prototype crashed in 1999, killing all eight persons on board.