In a significant stride towards modernizing its airborne capabilities, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to receive its first purpose-built Gallium Nitride (GaN) -based Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. This state-of-the-art radar system is designed to meet the IAF’s requirements and replace the existing Russian-origin Hybrid N011M BARS Radar, with the first delivery anticipated in 2024. The development of the radar marks a collaborative effort between a private sector company and the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The GaN-based AESA radar is poised to revolutionize the IAF’s operational capabilities, enhancing both its tracking and search capabilities. The developmental trials for this cutting-edge radar system are scheduled to commence in 2025, utilizing two Su-30MKI fighter aircraft that will serve as testbeds for the program.

The endeavour is led by the DRDO Electronics and Radar Development Establishment, which is responsible for developing a scaled-up version of the Uttam radar tailored for the Russian-origin Su-30MKI fighter aircraft. The program is funded by the IAF and aims to replace approximately 150 Hybrid N011M BARS Radars currently equipped on the Su-30MKI fleet. The phased replacement is projected to begin from 2027-28 onwards.

Key to the success of this initiative is the integration of GaN technology into the radar design. GaN technology, known for its remarkable performance capabilities, offers several advantages over conventional radar systems. One of its notable features is the ability to provide an array that can transmit electronic counter-counter-countermeasures (ECCM) and detect smaller targets. In an era characterized by the increasing use of small unmanned aerial vehicles, the radar’s ability to detect these smaller targets is crucial.

The GaN-based radar is also characterized by its ability to operate at higher bandwidths and improved thermal efficiency. The addition of more transmit/receive modules (TRMs) and an enhanced power supply translates into extended track and search ranges, significantly augmenting the IAF’s situational awareness and operational effectiveness.

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