The ‘eye in the sky’ of the Indian Air Force (IAF) - an Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation - was on Thursday (30 November) successfully refuelled mid-air using a Russian-built IL-78M tanker for the first time, The Tribune has reported.
With the successful trial of air-to-air refuelling, the AEW&C aircraft can now stay airborne for extended periods. A mere 10-minute of in-flight refuelling can extend the endurance time of the aircraft by at least four hours, reports say.
Air-to-air refuelling requires exceptional flying skills as the receiving aircraft has to accurately insert the receptacle probe into the basket-shaped drogue trailing behind the fuel tanker aircraft. Here is a video of the manoeuvre:
"IAF is one of the few Air Forces in the world to demonstrate this capability and the Embraer AEW&C has also proved its prowess in the category," the IAF has said in a statement. “The achievement has given a tremendous boost to IAF's operational capability,” the statement added.
The system, mounted on a Brazilian-built Embraer-145 jet, was inducted by the IAF in February 2017. It has significantly augmented IAF’s ability to provide early warning about hostile aerial activities. Three such systems are being built and will be based at Bhatinda in Punjab, facing the border with Pakistan.
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