According to a report prepared by the live fist defence, India is going ahead and inking a long-pending deal for the purchase of two ISTAR aircraft under a government-to-government deal for the Raytheon system that will mount a Gulfstream platform by end of this year. The ISTAR program has been delayed by more than 5 years now “due to a dispute between DRDO and IAF over the issue of being designated as a prime evaluating authority. IAF had said DRDO is incapable and does not have the expertise to evaluate the aircraft; therefore, the service should be the technical evaluator as the aircraft will be operated by them.”

DRDO also has proposed the development of indigenous ISTAR aircraft to be mounted on a Gulfstream or Bombardier platform for the Indian Air Force and National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) and scale models of which were also showcased at Aero India 2021 and also at DefExpo 2020. IAF has agreed to procure 3 ISTAR aircraft from DRDO and one will be procured by NTRO and developmental work has also started with a new team at the Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) that has developed some of the systems for the ISTAR aircraft already.

The Indian Air Force’s Two ISTAR aircraft will be supplied by Raytheon sensors and systems on a Gulfstream G550 business jets and it was expected that the same aircraft will be procured for the 4 indigenous ISTAR. but the Scale model displayed at the DefExpo 2020 was based on the Bombardier Global 6000 private jet.

India-specific ISTAR aircraft for the Air Force will be equipped with active electronically scanned array radar that can scan more than a 30,000-kilometer area in a minute, and analyze data and identify the target in 10 to 15 minutes.

ISTAR intercepts enemy signals and it tells the ground commander exactly which weapons he should use for a counterstrike, and where he should aim them exactly. aircraft maintains a two-way feed with all reconnaissance platforms – satellites, aircraft, UAVs, helicopters, and army ground reconnaissance vehicles. It not only sees what those multiple platforms see, but it can also direct them to change position for better results, uses its own and platforms’ countermeasures, and tells the other platform where exactly to launch weapons. It does all this automatically, the crew only sets the parameters required by commanders.

The Air Force also floated a restricted global request for information for the acquisition of ISTAR-capable aircraft in 2013 to Thales of France, Raytheon and Boeing of the U.S., Elta of Israel, and BAE Systems of the United Kingdom; but the case did not progress further, as it was only an expression of interest. In 2015, the Indian Air Force submitted a formal request to acquire ISTAR aircraft, which was approved by the MoD that same year.

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