Indian Air Force DRDO Netra AWACS Planes To Look Deep Into Pakistan And China
India is facing constant threat from its neighbors on both eastern and western front of the country’s border. India has fought 5 wars in the short span of time on both the fronts and already facing continuous insurgency and malpractices sponsored by the nations around its border.
Recently,The Indian Air Force (IAF) inducted the first indigenously developed all-weather airborne early warning and control system (AeW&CS)—’Eyes in the Sky”, augmenting its ability to detect incoming cruise missiles, fighter jets or even drones from both Pakistan and China.
After Pulawama attack, IAF carried out pre-dawn air strikes on terror camps in Balakot, Muzaffarabad and Chakoti, across the Line of Control (the unofficial border between India and Pakistan in Kashmir region) using 12 Dassault Mirage 2000 single-engine multirole fighter jets guided by Heron UAVs and an Embraer EMB-145 AWACS aircraft, various media reported.
The Embraer AWACS were deployed to help the IAF carry out surveillance on enemy Air Defence systems and warn the attacking jets to track any Pakistani fighter jets which could have been deployed to fend off the IAF Mirage planes.
Indigenously developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), the Airborne Early Warning and Control System Aircraft (AEW&C) Netra and Israeli Heron drone are believed to have played key role during the pre-dawn air strike carried out by the Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets on Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The AEW&C System is a system of systems populated with state-of-the art Active Electronically Scanned Radar, Secondary Surveillance Radar, Electronic and Communication Counter Measures, LOS (Line of Sight) and beyond LOS data link, voice communication system and self protection suite, built on an Emb-145 platform, having an air to air refueling capability to enhance surveillance time. Complex tactical software has been developed for fusion of information from the sensors, to provide the air situation picture along with intelligence to handle identification/classification threat assessment. Battle management functions are built in house to work as a network centric system of Integrated Air Command & Control System (IACCS) node.”
The Netra AEW&C system would join the three Phalcon A-50 long-range AWACS mounted on Russian IL-76 transport aircraft. These aerial radars, called eye-in-the-sky, are game-changers in warfare. The Netra AEW&C system has an indigenous radar mounted on the Embraer Emb-145 aircraft and three systems are being developed. The system handed over is in the initial operational configuration (IOC).
The present system gives a 240-degree coverage of airspace. The three aircraft would be based at Bhatinda facing the western border. The Emb-145 also has air-to-air refuelling capability for longer surveillance time. This capacity will be tested and certified in the next few months. India had made similar attempts in the past, which ended tragically. The DRDO began a project in the 1980s to build an AWACS, later renamed Project Airawat, but it was cancelled after a prototype crashed in 1999, killing all eight persons on board.
Additionally, aircraft has other mission capabilities like identification friend or foe (IFF), electronic & communication support measures, C-band line-of-sight & Ku-band SATCOM datalinks, etc., similar to those on AWACS & CAEW systems. Important modes of operation of primary radar system are surface surveillance & air surveillance.
Sensor has abilities to search, track-while-scan, priority tracking, high performance tracking, etc. In priority tracking, targets will be placed in full track mode even if these cross primary surveillance area. In high performance tracking, additional measurements will be made to improve tracking accuracy.
Utilising active aperture technology, radar provides a fast-beam agile system that can operate in several modes concurrently. Inter-operability with AWACS, other AEW&C aircraft, fighters & ground-exploitation stations is ensured using data-links with voice & data channels. More than 40 other aircraft will be datalinked together by AEW&C aircraft.
However, this addition and even the other two in the pipeline will not put India on a par with China or even Pakistan.
China is equipped with better capabilities. As TOI reported earlier, China has over 20 AWACS, including the new KJ-500 ones that can track over 60 aircraft at ranges up to 470km, while Pakistan, on the other hand has four Swedish Saab-2000 AeW&C aircraft and four Chinese-origin ZDK-03 (KJ-200) AWACS.
Keeping this in mind, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), in March 2016 cleared building of two Awacs, which will involve mounting indigenous 360-degree coverage AESA (active electronically scanned array) radars on Airbus A-330 wide-body jets.
The estimated cost of this project is Rs 5,113 crore and the eventual plan is to induct eight such aircraft under the “Awacs -India”.
But this is going to take at least seven years to be implemented, if the DRDO sticks to deadlines.