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On its recent Raising Day celebration, the Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS), located in Bengaluru and under the aegis of the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), marked the occasion with a significant event. Air Marshal Ashutosh Dixit, Deputy Chief of Air Staff, graced the event as the Chief Guest, and Shri MZ Siddique, Director General (Aero), added to the ceremony’s significance.

The event provided a platform to showcase the Research and Development efforts of CABS over the years and highlight the latest technological advancements. The Director of CABS presented an overview of the organization’s journey and ongoing initiatives. However, one image displayed in the background during the event’s proceedings drew attention and fueled speculation within the defense community.

The image in question featured the NETRA Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&CS), labeled as both Mk1 and Mk1A. This revelation raised questions and conjectures, hinting at the possibility that DRDO CABS may have undertaken a project to further enhance and update the AEW&CS platforms independently.

To provide context, the Indian Air Force (IAF) received the Two NETRA AEW&C platform post 2019, and promptly deployed it at the Bathinda Air Base in Punjab. The third platform remains under joint ownership between the IAF and DRDO, designated for use as a testbed to facilitate further technological developments.

Significantly, the IAF and DRDO have already commenced work on the NETRA Mk2, which will be based on the Airbus A321 platform. Earlier this year, it was reported by that Brazilian aerospace giant Embraer had offered its Praetor 600, a super mid-size business jet, as a potential platform for the Netra Mk1 AEW&CS Program. Embraer had previously supplied India with three ERJ145 platforms, which were utilized in the development of the Netra Mk1 AEW&CS. The IAF was considering procuring 5-6 additional ERJ145 platforms for the expanded Netra Mk1 AEW&CS program.

While the image at the CABS Raising Day event stirs intrigue, it remains to be seen what specific updates or developments are in store for India’s NETRA AEW&CS platforms and how DRDO CABS plans to enhance these critical assets in the nation’s defense arsenal.

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