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.

Status on India’s Indigenous AWACS

  • Indigenous efforts to develop mini-AWACS in a Rs 1,800-crore project approved in 2004, under which AEW&C (airborne early warning and control) systems developed by DRDO are being mounted on three Embraer-145 jets obtained from Brazil for $210 million. However, they have been hit by several delays.
  • Their project completion date has been pushed back to April, 2014.
  • These indigenous airborne surveillance platforms will have a normal radar range of 250-km and a 375-km extended one, with a 240-degree coverage and five-hour endurance time.