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India to Augment Awacs Fleet

India to Augment Awacs Fleet

In a bid to boost its aerial surveillance, India will buy six aircraft that can be used for supporting its indigenous Airborne Warning and Control System (Awacs).

“A tender has been floated to global vendors for the supply of suitable aircraft with necessary structural modifications, power and endurance adaptations and equipment installation or installation provisions for the Awacs,” says an official at the defense ministry.

Though the type of aircraft hasn’t been specified, India is looking at acquiring a platform that can support an Awacs antenna dome, which is about 10 meters in diameter. The aircraft also should have provisions for the installation of all external and internal elements of the mission systems, the official adds.

Only original aircraft manufacturers are qualified to submit the bids. Also, “the vendors should be willing to support the product for a period not less than 30 years from the date of acceptance of the aircraft,” he says.

The vendor is also expected to support the Indian air force (IAF) in the installation of the mission systems.

In March 2013, Defense Minister A.K. Antony said the indigenous development of Awacs was envisioned to be completed in 84 months. The program started in late 2013 and is expected to be completed by around 2020, assuming there are no delays.

IAF currently operates three Awacs platforms: Ilyushin IL-76s upgraded with Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) Phalcon Awacs radar and mission control systems, with a platform designation of A-50EI. The modified IL-76s already serves in Russia as the A-50 Awacs.

India has already activated a follow-on order for two additional A-50EIs from IAI.

According to the defense ministry official, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), which is developing the radars and sensors, is looking at either the Boeing-767 or Airbus A330 as the new platform. However, vendors such as Ilyushin, Antonov, Sukhoi, Bombardier and Saab could also be in the running.

India is also developing an Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system aircraft, based on the Embraer ERJ 145. “We have already developed one and two more are at their final stages,” an official of the Center for Airborne Systems (CABS) tells Aviation Week.

India purchased three EMB-145 to be converted into AEW&C platforms by the Bangalore-based CABS.

“We have in principle approval to develop five more of such systems,” he adds.

The flight test for the second AEW&C is underway and expected to be ready for induction in the next six to eight months. “And within three months we will deliver the third one,” the CABS official adds.

The EMB 145 AEW&C features inflight refueling capability, a significant increase in electric and cooling capacity and a comprehensive set of structural changes that have allowed the installation of the advanced mission systems developed by CABS along with the work centers of DRDO.

India’s foray into developing an Awacs platform in the 1980s, called Guardian/Airawat, ended in disaster in 1999 when its HS-748 turboprop Awacs testbed aircraft crashed, killing several engineers and scientists critical to the project.

India’s aim is to possess around 15 aerial surveillance and command aircraft, with varying levels of endurance and capability.

India Wants Long-endurance Awacs:

Although India already operates two types of airborne early warning aircraft, the country’s air force is pressing ahead with a program to procure a third platform with extended range, longer endurance and higher operational altitude performance. A request for proposal (RFP) has been released to original equipment manufacturers by the Ministry of Defence’s Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) for the supply of six “aircraft with necessary structural modifications, power and endurance adaptations and equipment installation/installation provisions for the Awacs (airborne warning and control system)(India) role, and certified as perFAR25 or equivalent.” The bids will be opened on July15.

WithCABSleaning toward civilian platforms that will give a maintenance advantage, the two likely contenders are the Airbus A330, which India has selected for a tanker role, and the Boeing 767, which has already been converted for Awacs in the form of Japan’s E-767. However, with production lines of theKC-46A aerial refueling tanker (modeled on Boeing’s 767 jetliner) busy with an order for replacement of theU.S.Air Force’sKC-135 Stratotankers, it is not clear if aircraft can be made available from the production line, said an aerospaceengineer.

According to an official associated with theCABSproject, field trials will start by year-end. “This project will move fast, as $1.2 billion has already been released,” an MoD official toldAINon condition of anonymity. Non-recurring costs for the project will be paid byIndia.

TheRFPstipulatesOEMresponsibility for design and manufacture of the 10-meter-diameter antenna dome attachment (pylon) structure and installation, provision for installing external and internal elements of mission systems, power source and distribution circuits, structures for mounting the mission system, and installation of customer-furnished equipment, amounting to an additional 20 tons of weight. “Vendors willing to support the buyer in the installation of the mission systems on the aircraft alone will be considered,” said theRFP.

Interestingly, though wind tunnel tests can be performed in India,AINhas learned from sources close to the program that the air force is concerned about safety and is likely to assign the task to theOEM. Early attempts byCABSto enter the Awacs field ended in the crash of itsHS.748 twin-turboprop testbed in 1999, killing scientists involved in theproject.
Bangalore-basedCABS, a wing of the MoD’s Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), is mandated to develop technologies and infrastructure for indigenous airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) systems. A contract signed in 2008 with Embraer for threeEMB-145s—two for the Indian Air Force and one forCABS—included platform improvements by Embraer for in-flight refueling and increased power generation and cooling.CABSmission systems that include primary and secondary radars, satcom/Comint/Elint and countermeasures systems were to be integrated in the aircraft. The second aircraft is expected to be inducted byyear-end.

The Indian Air Force also operates three Ilyushin Il-76s upgraded with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Phalcon radar and mission control systems with a platform designation of A-50EI.

Source: & News - 1 April 2014

Photo: The Indian Air Force Ilyushin IL-76Airborne Warning and Control System (Awacs). (Photo by Indian Air Force)


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