Bengaluru, March 29: India's Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar cleared a proposal to build two ‘prying planes' making use of the expertise of Bengaluru-based Centre for Air Borne Systems (CABS), a premier lab under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Ahead of his maiden foreign visit to Japan, Parrikar cleared the proposal to build two Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) in India and sanctioned Rs 5,113 crore for the same.
These two platforms are to be built on an Airbus A-330 for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The decision was taken at the high-power Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting on Saturday. The government plans to build a total of six AWACS in India in phases.
Currently the CABS is undertaking flight-testing and integration work of an Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) System, on an Embraer (EMB-145I).
Two such systems have already undergoing critical tests in various air bases in India. The first system is expected to be handed over to the IAF within the next three months.
As reported by OneIndia during Aero India 2015, the second AEW&C System is expected to be handed over to the IAF in September this year for user evaluation trials.
DRSDO had announced that the third aircraft will be arriving in India by July 2015.
AWACS to follow AEW&C model?
DRDO sources told OneIndia that CASB have been working on the preliminary plan on the AWACS after the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) gave the approval for AWACS in February 2013.
"All three AWACS being operated by the IAF now (Israeli Phalcons embedded on Russian IL-76) are part of network centric missions. They are able to provide adequate coverage of specified areas. The IAF wanted to enhance the airborne surveillance and command and control capabilities. The new AWACS will be able to provide 360 degrees coverage," a DRDO official said.
"CABS has already enough expertise on this front. The PMT (Programme Management Team) from the IAF, is part of the Embraer-AEW&C project, is constantly giving feedback to our scientists.
The PMT gets constant inputs from the Test Pilots flying the AEW&C System from ASTE (Aircraft Systems and Testing Establishment).
The AWACS-India too will follow the same model," the official said.
When asked about the time-frame by which the first AWACS-India would roll out, the official said that as per the initial estimate the project needs to be completed in 84 months from the date of formal sanction of the programme.
"Now with the DAC approval, we will have a proper timelines being put in place based on the requirements of the user. DRDO has definitely gone leaps and bounds in mastering the technologies and hence AWACS-India will not hopefully run into any delays. We have already travelled some distance in initiating the project and hence it will be now the continuation of a work in progress," the official added.
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)