India is Shopping for Nine Bizjets for Special-Missions

IAI Elta is expanding the line of special mission aircraft with the introduction of Maritime Search Aircraft platform based on the Bombardier Q300 and Q400, turbo-prop powered aircraft are considered more cost effective and better performing in maritime missions, requiring frequent changes in patrol altitude.

The Indian Air Force has floated a brand new requirement to support the acquisition of nine special mission aircraft for airborne Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), Communications Jamming (COMJAM), ground survey and target towing.

According to the request for information sent out to global vendors, two of the nine aircraft should be certified to perform the SIGINT role, since the mission systems required for the SIGINT role commonly demand permanent changes and adaptations to the airframe.

The remaining seven aircraft should be configured by the prime contractor and certified for the multi-mission role, supporting aerial survey, target towing, COMJAM and flaring. These missions will be flown in addition to their original role in carrying passenger and cargo roles.

Nonetheless, all nine aircraft will share the same platform complying with FAA/JAAR or equivalent standards, to save in operations, training, logistics spares and support. India is likely to consider the Gulfstream GV platform proposed by IAI/Elta Systems, special mission systems based on platforms offered by Gulfstream (GV) and Bombardier (a special-mission derivative of the Dash-8 Q400 was displayed at Aero India expo in Bangalore in 2011.) Other companies likely to be considered are Northrop grumman, Boeing, Raytheon and L-3. Among the European participants BAE Systems, Thales and Saab also offer suitable systems and platform and are likely to bid. For platforms, some of the bidders are likely to consider the Embraer EBR-145, which has already been selected for the DRDO lightweight AEW program. The Indian Air Force already operates five EMB-135BJ Legacy business jets. For the SIGINT mission the IAF operates two Learjet 29A and three Gulfstream III SRA platforms.

Embraer EMB-145I uses the Emb-145 business jet platform modified to the specifications set by the Indian AEW requirements. Photo: CABS