Indian Air force (IAF) which operates only 5 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) radar system is now planning to procure a few on short-term lease till six A321 AWACS-based on the Indigenous Netra suite is ready in the next 4-5 years. IAF plans to procure two additional Phalcon AWACS failed to materialize due to cost and plans to procure more Embraer ERJ 145 was also not followed due to allegations of kickbacks in the $208 million jet deal with Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer.

DRDO has taken over six ex-Air India A321 planes that now will be converted into AWACS aircraft that will be fitted with improved radar but the process will take 4-5 years before the first modified aircraft is delivered.

IAF still has plans to procure A330 based AWACS system but A321-based AWACS is seen as an interim solution. Lack of out of box thinking has resulted in IAF having an AWACS fleet that is smaller than that of Pakistan, an air force that is nearly half its size and a lack of substantial AWACS fleet means that it is near impossible to have 24×7 coverage in one sector.

There is no clarity on how many AWACS IAF plans to lease but AWACS aircraft, unlike Flight refueling Aircraft, are never on the lease, unless very few operate them and are willing to give them on lease for strategic reasons.

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