After years of delays and countless hours of refinements to the radar, DRDO has finally started delivering made-in-India AEW&C to the IAF. Dubbed ” Netra ” (Eye) by Indian Air Force it was also the star attraction at this years republic day parade.

Indigenous AEW&C programme has succeeded in almost all aspects and recently also cleared final trials in a scenario where aircraft was actually tracking and coordinating with nearly dozen combat jets similar to operational situations under which it could normally operate in. But the bigger challenge is now to shift focus on next version that is bigger AWACS-I (India).

DRDO is all set to move on to next big development in countries indigenous Airborne Warning and Control System and now focus shifts to ambitious AWACS India programme.

Bangalore-based Centre for Airborne Systems will be responsible for the development of “AWACS India ” for which India has selected Airbus A330 as the platform. India will be placing orders for two aircraft at the initial stage later to be followed up with four more aircraft with additional follow-on options for two more aircrafts.

Airbus will be tasked to develop and integrate a 10m (33ft)-diameter antenna rotodome, a supporting pylon and onboard mission systems. According to industrial sources close to, Dome will nearly be 14 tonnes in weight and will have fixed 90 degrees Radar coverage with one antenna, rotodome will have four Aesa radar to provide 360-degree coverage.

DRDO is taking an expensive route here and instead of using 3 antennas which will provide 120 degrees coverage each, like seen in IAF’s IL-76 AWACS based on Israeli ELTA’s AESA Radar, AWACS India will use four antennae with 90-degree coverage to improve tracking and detection capabilities but this will also lead to higher procurement costs.

New antenna arrangement will also mean Radar will be requiring high power requirements and according to DRDO Chief Dr Christopher, Airbus 330 aircraft which generates 60 kilowatts of power will not be sufficient to power the radar.

DRDO hence will be asking Airbus to fit the additional engine in the fuselage which will be dedicated only to power up Radars. According to Defence analyst, Ranesh Rajan speaking on this latest engine update said that a Smaller engine might be used to power radar and placement will likely take place near rear fuselage close to the radar.

India’s cabinet Committee on Security granted its approval for the AWACS India programme in February 2012 and Airbus Defence & Space emerged as the sole bidder for the six-aircraft tender, which had been issued in March 2014. DRDO has been given 8 years developmental schedule to complete AWACS India programme but delays in procurement of Airbus 330 aircraft itself will mean the program will face delays and the first aircraft will only emerge in 2022-23 time frame.

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