The Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to induct the first indigenously developed Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft at Aero India 2017, which kicks off on February 14th at the Yelahanka Air Force Station near Bangalore.
The indigenous AEW&C system has been developed by DRDO’s Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) based in Bangalore and integrated on the Brazilian Embraer ERJ-145 platform.
The hitherto unnamed indigenous AEW&C system consists of multiple antenna arrays mounted on top of the fuselage of the ERJ-145 and provides a 240 degree radar coverage. In addition to this, there are multiple sensors and cameras installed throughout the aircraft fuselage. The primary radar is an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) unit with Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) capabilities.
The system has been designed to detect and identify threats to IAF fighters and other assets both from the air and from the ground, and act as a flying command and control post to support IAF missions. The aircraft uses secure data links to communicate with IAF aircraft, satellites and ground based stations. It is equipped with a comprehensive self defence suite, to protect itself from threats while on a mission. The AEW&C aircraft also has mid-air refuelling capability, which allows extended operations and loiter time.
The project began back in 2003, when the IAF & DRDO carried out a joint feasibility study for development of an AEW&C system. After receiving government approvals, the responsibility for design and development of the system was assigned to DRDO’s CABS. The program was originally supposed to deliver three AEW&C aircraft to the IAF by 2013, but this has been delayed by four years, with the first aircraft to be delivered next week. The aircraft has been displayed during the past two Aero India shows starting 2013.
The IAF AEW&C aircraft will complement the more capable and larger Phalcon AWACS systems based on the Ilyushin IL-76 platform that are already in service.