India Plans to Expand AEW Capability


India is expected to expand its fleet of airborne warning and Command Systems (AWACS) adding up to five additional platforms to the three Il-76 PHALCON aircraft currently under construction with the first aircraft scheduled for delivery in September 2007. The remaining two will be delivered by 2009. Under the US$1.1 billion PHALCON deal with Israel, New Delhi has an option to acquire three to five more AWCs from Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) that would be delivered during 2009-12. With aerial refueling capability, Il-76 PHALCONs will be able to fly missions of 14 hours or more at high altitude, extending their coverage over large airspace well beyond the Indian borders.

India is also developing a smaller AWACS version, mounting locally developed radar derived from the Akash air defense missile, mounted on an Embraer aircraft. India has already spent $500 million on the program, which could be used as a ‘gap filler’ to complement ground based and airborne PHALCON systems.

India is also interested in acquiring several Hawkeye 2000 AEW aircraft to equip its aircraft carriers. The Indian Navy is currently operating Kamov 28 HELIX AEW systems which have limited range, endurance and coverage while Hawkeye aircraft could extend their capability to keep up with strike capabilities provided by new MiG-29s soon to join the Indian Navy service.