After waiting for clearance of Six Airbus A330 AWACS from the Ministry of Defence (MOD), IAF has been cleared to procure first two Airbus A330 platform for DRDO to mount its AWACS technology in the aircraft so that IAF’s requirement for 360° AESA Desi eye in the sky with good operational availability and range can be achieved to meet its operational requirements.

Airbus A330 ain’t cheap and IAF will get only first two of them in operational fleet by 2025 and four more will be ordered as part of follow on clause at later stage but it also exposes narrow mindset in the top IAF management which are refusing it fill the gap from other aircrafts even when arch-rival PAF which has less area to defend now has more AWACS assets than it.

IAF own Internal requirement suggests that need to have at least 18-20 mix assets of AWACS to meet its operational requirement for both side of the border yet after taking delivery of two Netra AWACS based on the ERJ 145 (air frame) no efforts were done to procure more of them even when Netra AWACS have performed well in trials and was part of the strike team which took out terror targets deep inside Pakistan earlier this year.

IL76 `Phalcon’ AWACS fleet due to the limited size and due to persistence maintenance issues have very low availability. Six Airbus A330 AWACS will only fill the avoid which IL76 `Phalcon’ AWACS fleet was not able to achieve in operational requirement due to low Availability but it still not mean it will be able to meet operational requirements in a full-fledged war.

DRDO has proposed development of Netra 2.0 with improved radar with stealth detection to be mounted on the Airbus C-295 platform which IAF plans to acquire soon for its transport division, yet there is no urgency shown by the IAF to fill the gap which their arch-rival has to succeed in marching ahead with purchase of low cost used air frame fleet.

IAF will need to place immediate orders for at least 10 Airbus C-295 Netra 2.0 when the production of the aircraft commences locally in India. IAF should also explore ways to use Hawker Siddeley HS 748 AVRO Transport aircraft in the AWACS role since many of the air frames have flown less than 30000 air frame life of a lakh kilometers. AVRO due to lack of ramp turned out to be not so useful in the role of transport aircraft but HAL is willing to upgrade some old air frame with new engines and all-digital cockpit and some of the air frames can be used to mount AWACS to boost it AWACS numbers.

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Article by  MANJUNATH REDDDY ,  cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or