Centre approves 'Eyes in Sky' Project to build 6 indigenous 'early-warning' aircraft – Get Details Here
The AEW&C aircraft project is significantly crucial to the Indian Defence as both China and Pakistan are ahead of India in this regard. Read all you need to know.
IAF mega project early-warning aircraft: The Government gave its final approval to the mega IAF project worth Rs 10,990 crores to build 6 AEW&C (Airborne Early Warning and Control) aircraft to bolster the surveillance capability of the Indian Air Force (IAF) along the borders with China and Pakistan. The AEW&C aircraft are regarded as powerful ‘eyes in the sky’ in modern warfare. Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) chaired by PM Narendra Modi had approved the AEW&C aircraft project on September 8, 2021.
The CCS has also cleared the Rs 21,000 crores (around $3 billion) worth project to procure 56 C-296MW transport aircraft for the IAF on September 8, 2021. The two mega IAF projects are worth over Rs 30,000 crores.
Need for AEW&C aircraft project for IAF
The AEW&C aircraft project is significantly crucial to the Indian Defence as both China and Pakistan are ahead of India in this regard. China has around 30 AEW&C aircraft, including KJ-500 aircraft, KJ-200 Moth, and Kong Jing-2000 Mainring. Pakistan has 8 to 10 Chinese Karakoram Eagle ZDK-03 AWACS and Swedish Saab-2000 AEW&C.
Indian Air Force currently operates 3 Israeli Phalcon AWACS mounted on Russian IL-76 transport aircraft, with 360-degrees radar coverage at a 400-km range. IAF has 2 indigenous ‘Netra’ AEW&C aircraft, with indigenous 240-degrees coverage radars with a 250-km range, fitted on smaller Brazilian Embraer-145 jets.
In February 2019, the IAF felt a significant need for leveling up the operational capability for more such aircraft after the cross-border Balakot airstrikes with Pakistani fighters. The military stand-off with China in eastern Ladakh has further increased the need for strengthening IAF’s surveillance gaps.
What is AEW&C aircraft?
The AEW&C aircraft are referred to as powerful ‘eyes in the sky’ in modern warfare. The AEW&C aircraft is capable of detecting any flying object in the sky including incoming fighters, drones, and cruise missiles quicker than ground-based radars, direct friendly fighters during air combat, and also keep an eye on the warships of enemy troops.
How will AEW&C aircraft benefit IAF?
The new 6 AEW&C aircraft will upgrade the Netra fleet in terms of 360-degrees coverage and longer range. The new AEW&C aircraft will be built on the narrow-body Airbus-321 and Airbus-319 planes of the Air India fleet. The modification and entire maintenance of the fleet will be possible at a much cheaper rate and done in India itself.
The 6 AEW&C aircraft will be developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and modified to mount the indigenous 360-degrees coverage Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars on them.
Approval of 56 C-296MW transport aircraft for the IAF
In addition to the approval of 6 AEW&C aircraft project, the Committee chaired by PM Modi on September 8, 2021, had also approved the deal worth Rs 21,000 crores (around $3 billion) to procure 56 C-295MW transport aircraft for the IAF. The new C-295MW aircraft will replace the outdated Avro 748 transport aircraft. The new C-295MW aircraft will boost IAF’s capability to carry 5 to 10 tonnes of load and bridge the gap between the C-130Js and An-32s.
16 of these aircraft will be delivered in flyaway condition from Spain within 48 months of signing the contract.
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