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The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) quest for a robust Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) capability continues to gain momentum. While the Netra Mk1A and Airbus A-321-based AEW&C MkII programs are currently in the spotlight, DRDO, India’s premier defence research organization, hasn’t lost sight of the long-term goal – a dome-mounted AWACS solution offering complete 360-degree coverage.

According to informed sources close to, DRDO is actively pursuing the development of a dome antenna specifically designed for the AWACS program. This ongoing effort comes despite the current focus on the Netra Mk1A and AEW&C MkII projects.

The IAF currently operates three Embraer ERJ-145 aircraft equipped with the Netra Mk1A AWACS system. Additionally, plans are in place to procure six more domestically developed Netra Mk1A aircraft with significant improvements over the existing version. Development of radar technology is also underway for the Airbus A-321-based AEW&C MkII program.

Both the Netra Mk1/1A and AEW&C MkII utilize an Active Antenna Array Unit (AAAU) configuration. This AAAU features two radiating planar arrays positioned back-to-back on the fuselage, providing a 240-degree coverage area. However, the AWACS program seeks a dome antenna mounted on top of the aircraft to achieve full 360-degree coverage, a significant advantage in aerial surveillance.

DRDO’s continued work on the AWACS dome antenna signifies a forward-looking approach. By keeping this technology on the back burner, the IAF ensures a smoother transition to a full-fledged dome-based AWACS system when program approvals are granted.

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