India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has proposed to develop an indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS), described as an 'eye-in-the-sky' force multiplier that can keep a watch on enemy military activity, aircraft getting airborne or missile being fired.
Defence Minister AK Antony informed the Indian Parliament on the DRDO proposal to begin work on the project called AWACS (India).
"The project proposal for indigenous development of AWACS (India) has been submitted by the DRDO for government approval," Antony said in a written reply to a question from members of the Council of States.
He also said that the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) of the Defence Ministry envisages deployment of a mix of large AWACS and small Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) System aircraft.
AWACS have better capabilities and are mounted on larger aircraft, while AEW&C are mounted on smaller planes.
"While three AWACS already stand operationalised in the Indian Air Force (IAF), there is a proposal for procurement of two additional AWACS. Simultaneously, DRDO is engaged in indigenous development of three AEW&C systems," he added.
The procurement of two additional AWACS will be follow-on to the $1.1 billion contract signed by India, Israel and Russia in 2004. Under the contract, IAF got three Israeli-made PHALCON AWACS that were mounted on Russian IL-76 aircraft in 2009 and 2010.
The larger AWACS and the smaller AEW&C systems can detect incoming fighter jets and missiles, apart from keeping a tabe on troop’s movement across the border.
This early warning enables military commanders to take quicker decisions to counter the enemy's military activities on time.
DRDO's plans on kick-starting its AWACS project comes even as China has amassed capabilities in this regard, having inducted a mix of 20 old and new AWACS.
Pakistan too inducted four Swedish Saab-2000 AWACS in quick succession and is in talks with China to get four Chinese ZDK-03 AWACS.
Under the AWACS (India) project, the DRDO plans to develop a 360-degree AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar, which will be mounted on the Russian Ilyushin or the US Boeing or the European Airbus planes.
Its current project for the AEW&C systems are based on three Embraer-145 jets obtained from Brazil for $200 million, under a project approved by the government in October 2004 for $370 million.
When all these project of India fructify, it will be deploying 15 AWACS and AEW&C before 2020.