Air Force gets its first 'eye-in-the-sky' Awacs

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: May 30 2009, 05:29am hrs
The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Thursday got its first eye-in-the-sky, with the induction of the first of the three airborne early warning and control systems (Awacs). This will help IAF detect incoming flying weapons and listen-in to aerial communications.

Defence minister AK Antony formally inducted the giant IL-76 aircraft, configured in its new avatar, into the IAF at the Palam Air Base.

Air chief marshal Fali Homi Major told reporters, For the real-time control of combat assets, we require real-time intelligence, which will be provided by the Awacs. They will form an important part of the command and control system and also increase the transparency of the battlefield.

The remaining two Awacs are expected to be delivered by the year-end.

A major step towards network-centric operations, the induction of Awacs has catapulted India into the league of six nationsthe US, Russia, Britain, Japan, Australia and Turkeywhich operate aircraft of this class.

With its ability to detect aircraft, cruise missiles and other flying objects at ranges far greater than those possible through existing systems, the Awacs can also collate surface information about troop movements and missile launches even while listening-in to highly confidential communications between the enemys front line units.

To this extent, the Awacs, as a potent force-multiplier, are expected to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the IAF's offensive and defensive operations.

It will be a complete transformation of capabilities.... In the future, we may need more of these. It is unique and designed to suit our needs, Major added. We are using this asset for the first time and it will take us a while before we know how many more we require. But considering the expanse of our country, we will need more of these.

The airframe of the Russian aircraft has been changed to accommodate the Israeli radar system under a tripartite agreement. The Awacscarry the largest and heaviest dome. With their 360-degree phased-array radars, they will form the IAFs eyes and ears-in-the-sky.

The aircraft, in the newly formed 50 Squadron, will be stationed at Agra, the largest and one of the most strategically important airbases in the country.

Dedicating the Awacs to the nation, Antony expressed his anxieties about the other two Awacs being delivered on time. The $1.1-billion deal for the three Awacs was signed in 2004 and they flew from Israel to the Jamnagar airbase in Gujarat earlier this week escorted by IAF's fighter jets.