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.

Created On: Sep 10, 2021 15:10 IST
Netra AEW&C aircraft, Source: PTI
Netra AEW&C aircraft, Source: PTI

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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