IAF To Get More ‘Eyes’ To Look Into China And Pakistan: DRDO To Convert Six Air India A320s Into Early Warning Aircraft For The Air Force
In a development that will bring relief to the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been cleared to modify six Airbus A320 jets operated by national carrier Air India with radar and sensors and convert them into Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft.
The IAF, which currently operates two DRDO-built Netra and three PHALCON early warning aircraft, has been looking to add more such aircraft to its fleet for at least a few years. In the aftermath of the Balakot episode in 2019, when Pakistan Air Force responded to India’s airstrikes on a terrorist camp in Pakistani territory, the IAF had to do with limited early warning capabilities.
Now, with DRDO getting approval to convert six Air India jets into AEW&C aircraft, this critical shortage faced by the IAF will finally be addressed.
The programme, likely to cost around Rs 10,500 crore, was approved by the Ministry of Defence earlier today, reports say.
According to Livefist, the A320 jets selected for this purpose will be sent to the original equipment manufacturer in France to be refurbished and modified to specifications set by IAF and DRDO. The A320 commercial airliners will need much work before they are ready to receive sensors developed by the DRDO.
The AEW&C aircraft based on modified A320s will be equipped with a derivative of the dorsal antenna system, which has been developed by the DRDO and used on Netra AEW&Cs of the IAF based on Embraer ERJ 145 jets.
“The six AEW&C block two planes would be highly capable than their predecessor NETRA plane and provide 360-degree coverage deep inside the enemy territory during missions. The government is expected to clear the project soon,” an ANI report quotes an unnamed government official as saying.
DRDO’s Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS), based in Bengaluru, has been working on the dorsal radome, which was to be used on Airbus A330 based AWACS system under a programme cleared by the Defence Ministry in 2015.
The government has not clarified if the A320 AEW&C aircraft programme will supplant India’s plans to build an AEW&C aircraft based on A330 jet.
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