DRDO Air India IAF A320 AWACS: In a major boost for the surveillance capabilities of Indian Air Force along the borders with China and Pakistan, DRDO is making six new ‘Made in India’ planes. These would be built on passenger aircraft flying with Air India.
“As per the plans the six new aircraft would be made in India by the DRDO and would be provided to the Air Force in the Rs 10,500 crore project which is expected to be cleared soon at the topmost level,” said official sources.
The six new aircraft would be known as the Airborne Early Warning and Control Block 2 planes that would be better equipped than their predecessor NETRA plane and provide 360-degree coverage deep inside the enemy territory during missions, said officials.
To build the AEW&C system on the existing aircraft from the Air India fleet, the DRDO will make formalities to transfer funds to the Air India. It may also mean that India may not buy the six Airbus 330 transport aircraft that were to be acquired.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had earlier planned to build six Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) on the Airbus 330 aircraft for which a facility was planned to be created in Bengaluru.
As per plans, the six new aircraft would be sent to a European destination to the original equipment manufacturer for modification of the planes for installation of the radar, the sources said.
Sources also said the project has been planned in a way to promote ‘Make in India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ in the defence sector. The Block I of the project was delayed beyond the scheduled timelines but with the prior experience under its belt, the Centre for Airborne Studies lab of DRDO is planning to complete this in a shorter timeframe.
The IAF has three PHALCON AWACS systems bought from Israel and Russia under which the radar is provided by the Israelis whereas the platform used is of the Russian Ilyushin-76 transport aircraft.