The Kamov-31 AEW helicopters are critical for the Indian Navy as they will help in increasing the radar coverage and will act as an extra set of eyes.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has recently approved the Rs 3,600 crore proposal to buy 10 Kamov-31 AEW Helicopters from Russia for the Indian Navy. “It is a single vendor purchase to be made from Russia for the Indian Navy, these helicopters will be on board the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier-1 (IAC),” confirmed a senior naval officer to Financial Express Online.
What are the Ka-31 AEW helicopters?
The Ka-31 helicopter is a variant of the older Russian Ka-29 maritime helicopter and is specifically meant for the airborne early warning (AEW) role. It has a rotating radar system that is stowed below its fuselage when not in use. It uses the ‘Oko’ radar system which has the capability of detecting aerial targets up to a distance of 200 kilometres away. This Oko radar is also capable of scanning for targets on the surface of the sea or on land.
These helicopters are critical for the Indian Navy as they will help in increasing the radar coverage and will act as an extra set of eyes. The radars onboard the ships have a limited ‘horizon’, which are not able to track low-flying targets, in particular, anti-ship missiles. For the first time, the Indian Navy had ordered the Ka-31 AEW helicopters in 1999 and these were deployed on board the INS Viraat aircraft carrier and other ships. There have been follow-on orders and so far there are around 14 Ka-31 helicopters in service of the Indian Navy.
As has been reported by the Financial Express Online, the first IAC is expected to go for trials next year and subsequently get inducted in service and will be based with the Eastern Naval Command (ENC). Building of infrastructure like berthing facilities and associated services for IAC-1 is already in process at the ENC. The IAC-1 currently under construction in Kochi under the Maritime Capability Perspective Plan, which envisages a force level of three aircraft carriers to ensure availability of at least two Carrier Battle Groups at any given time. The aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya has already been inducted in line with this plan.
Last December making a strong pitch for the second IAC during his annual press conference, the Naval Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba had said that it was a decade away and the construction which will start in another 2-3 years will take at least 7-10 years for completion. IAC-II is expected to have a displacement of 65,000 tonnes and has been designed to use a Catapult Assisted Take off but Arrested Recovery (CARTOBAR) which will be used for launching aircraft.