Fact Box: AWACS

Union Cabinet nod to DRDO for developing AWACS
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has received approval from the Union Cabinet of India for developing an indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) for IAF.

What is AWACS?

AWACS stands for Airborne Warning And Control System that helps the Air Force detect incoming missiles and enemy aircraft from across the country’s border.

  • AWACS is described as an ‘Eye in the Sky’ as it can carry out surveillance at about 400-km range under all-weather situations, and to lock on to 60 targets at a time simultaneously.
  • They are capable of detecting hostile aircraft, cruise missiles and other incoming aerial threat far before ground-based radars at a cost of over $800 million soon.

How does it work?

  • It is basically an aircraft fitted with sophisticated radar and can be said to be radar on the move.
  • It can provide advance warning about enemy’s intrusion into country’s air space.
  • It can also track and attack enemy’s targets in air. India has an agreement with Israel for supply of its awacs called phalcon.
  • Recently, it was reported that India will order another two advanced Israeli Phalcon AWACS.

What is India-Israel AWACS Deal?

  • The new “draft contract” for the two new AWACS “is now finally in the final stages of being examined” before it’s inked as a follow-on order to the $1.1-billion tripartite agreement among India, Israel and Russia in 2004, under which IAF inducted three Phalcon AWACS in 2009-10.
  • The purchase comes at a time when Pakistan is fast snapping at India’s heels in this complex military arena, having first inducted four Swedish Saab-2000s and on the verge of getting four Chinese ZDK-03 AWACS.

India and AWACS:

  • India’s tryst with AWACS has been beset with several problems. First, delivery of the first three AWACS , which have the Israeli 360-degree Phalcon early-warning radar and communication suite mounted on Russian IL-76 heavy-lift military aircraft, was delayed by over two years.
  • Then, there were major teething problems in them getting fully operational, with the Phalcons even being grounded at Agra for some time.

Importance of Phalcons:

  • The Phalcons significantly boost the effectiveness of both offensive and defensive operations. Their enhanced detection and interception capability, connected to fighters and surface-to-air missile systems, are tremendous force-multipliers.
  • Apart from detection of incoming cruise missiles and aircraft from over 400-km away in all-weather conditions, and direction of air defence fighters during combat operations, the Phalcons while flying well within Indian airspace can also monitor troop build-ups or activity at airbases and missile silos deep inside Pakistan.



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