Airborne Early Warning Systems - A-50EI Phalcon, DRDO Netra AEW&C, DRDO AWACS

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DRDO's AWACS: 12.5 ton AESA radar/radome ready for integration



DRDO-AIRBUS AWACS

“Because of the additional tanker functionality requirement, there have been some delays, but we’ve made up for it on our side by completing developing of the radome antenna that will be the centrepiece of the AWACS,” Christopher reveals. Built at the Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) in Bengaluru, the 12.5 tonne antenna is near ready for integration on an A330 once modifications on the first aircraft are complete.

With work now in progress to develop India’s AWACS with tanker functionality, it remains unclear whether this could have an impact on the soon to be floated tanker contest between Airbus and Boeing. Airbus, which emerged a winner in two aborted contests for IAF tankers (Boeing didn’t compete in those first two contests) appears to have something of an advantage with the Indian AWACS program choosing to fold in a tanker role into its mission profile. However, as Livefist has noted before, there could be several other factors at play too.

Christopher adds, “In Bengaluru we’ve finished the radome. So, we are very confident of moving quickly. The aircraft manufacturer won’t have to wait for us. They will have questions on performance and structural rigidity, but we are working concurrently, so those issues have been sorted out too. Is it safe to fly? Those answers we don’t have to worry about now because we have moved quickly — we can show and prove ourselves that we are capable of doing that and we’ve done it. We’ve ticked all the boxes so far.”

For the DRDO chief, the program hits close to home. Himself a product of the Centre for Airborne Systems that’s building India’s AWACS — and a sensor scientist by training — this is additionally a prestige project for Christopher and one that he cannot afford to let slip. Christopher retires in May this year, though sources say his tenure as DRDO chief could be extended.


NETRA AEW&C

India currently operates three Israeli A-50 PHALCON AWACS jets based on the Il-76 platform. The Indian Air Force last year took delivery of its first DRDO-Embraer AEW&C aircraft Netra based on the ERJ-145 jet platform. Livefist can confirm that the second aircraft has completed flight test and is likely to be handed over to the Indian Air Force next month in Bhatinda with defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman overseeing the proceedings.

“The IAF has been using the Netra extensively. They’ve suggested a few improvements, which we’ve incorporated in the second aircraft that will shortly be delivered to them,” Christopher says. The improvements include fine-tuning of the surveillance radar. The IAF’s urgency for more eye-in-the-sky aircraft has compelled it on a quest for two more PHALCON type aircraft from Israel.

The third Embraer platform will remain with DRDO, as earlier reported by Livefist. Interestingly, the DRDO is now looking at the option of selling the aircraft to a foreign customer as a major diplomatic gesture.

“We are weighing the possibility of giving it to a nearby country as a diplomatic gesture. Let us see if it works out,” Christopher says.

The Indian Air Force has an officially projected requirement for 15 AWACS aircraft. The current three Israeli PHALCON AWACS will be augmented with six indigenous A330-based AWACS with two additional jets as options, plus plans for two more PHALCON jets, making a total of 13 aircraft. The two Netra, when upgraded with the IAF’s stated improvements, will provide greater cover, though not the 360-degree cover the IAF wants from all fifteen jets in the class.

PHALCON AWACS

“In a country like ours, the IAF needs 360 coverage. The Netra AEW&C doesn’t have that. But this is also a far lower cost program. So while we build the higher performance AWACS to fulfill the IAF’s requirement, we will continue to support them in their use of the Netra. The aircraft are extremely agile and have demonstrated remarkable performance in the hands of our IAF crews,” Christopher says.
Why in the world you want Tanker functionality on a AEWC? .... whats next ? amphibious functionality?
 

Guynextdoor

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I think thats a good one. Its can atleast refuel all the planes that escort it.


Why in the world you want Tanker functionality on a AEWC? .... whats next ? amphibious functionality?

There is one excellent advantage I can think of. About 99% of its operational life will be in peacetime. Long range assets like this need long range escorts like the SU 30. With a refuel role you can let 'light' escorts (like the Tejas) fill in the same role (because now the fuel will allow it fly longer)> This can massively reduce the Opex for these operations.
 
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_Anonymous_

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There is one excellent advantage I can think of. About 99% of its operational life will be in peacetime. Long range assets like this need long range escorts like the SU 30. With a refuel role you can let 'light' escorts (like the Tejas) fill in the same role (because now the fuel will allow it fly longer)> This can massively reduce the Opex for these operations.
Given the way Vayu Bhavan & the MoD function , these are the times when I think you must be a senior functionary there .There's no other explanation for the OP.
 
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Bharath

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These countries don't have a sizable air force to operate an AEW&C.
SL has a big area of Ocean to cover - and link back to their ground station.

the idea would be to extend India's range of nautical search by sending the AEW&C to areas extending our maritime reach - my two cents.
 

Ashwin

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SL has a big area of Ocean to cover - and link back to their ground station.

the idea would be to extend India's range of nautical search by sending the AEW&C to areas extending our maritime reach - my two cents.

What surveillance are you referring to here? The primary use of AWACS is not for maritime surveillance but air space command and control. It manages the air battlespace by directing air assets. For maritime surveillance platforms like P-3 Orion /P-8 Poseidon are suitable. For AWACS to have a utility they need a sizable airforce.
 

Bharath

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The primary use of AWACS is not for maritime surveillance but air space command and control.
it does also detect maritime assets the relay of the data to aircraft is primarily in offensive role, but in a defensive role, just for surveillance, it can be used.

An airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system is an airborne radar picket system designed to detect aircraft, ships and vehicles at long ranges and perform command and control of the battlespace in an air engagement by directing fighter and attack aircraft strikes.
 

Bharath

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also .. I see that in the airborne early warning system for India - we are missing the Indian Navy's AEWC helicopters:


The Ka-31's airborne electronic warfare radar, mounted on its underbelly, can track 30-40 surface and air targets simultaneously.

The navy already has a fleet of nine Ka-31 helicopters, which are deployed on India's only aircraft carrier INS Virat and the Talwar Class guided missile stealth frigates of the navy.

They also operate from the navy's shore-based air stations.

The Indian Navy's first batch of four Ka-31's entered service in April 2003. The second batch of five was delivered in 2005.
 
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Ashwin

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it does also detect maritime assets the relay of the data to aircraft is primarily in offensive role, but in a defensive role, just for surveillance, it can be used.
I said primary. If your need is maritime surveillance you don't buy AWACS. A Do-228 can do that.

Can be used but all kind of things but build for a different superior role. Rafale can use its gun but its build for superior role.

also .. I see that in the airborne early warning system for India - we are missing the Indian Navy's AEWC helicopters:


The Ka-31's airborne electronic warfare radar, mounted on its underbelly, can track 30-40 surface and air targets simultaneously.

The navy already has a fleet of nine Ka-31 helicopters, which are deployed on India's only aircraft carrier INS Virat and the Talwar Class guided missile stealth frigates of the navy.

They also operate from the navy's shore-based air stations.

The Indian Navy's first batch of four Ka-31's entered service in April 2003. The second batch of five was delivered in 2005.
This is used by navies with aircraft carrier. ie, for airborne early warning. The priority here is air, not surface.
 

Bharath

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This is used by navies with aircraft carrier. ie, for airborne early warning. The priority here is air, not surface.
mate,
"air borne" early warning is to use the radars at altitudes so as to maximize the performance of the radar. it needs not only detect air threats but also ground/surface threats. the IN's helicopter based AEWC is actually even copied by the chinese now and they have placed an order for the same system from Russia years after it was inducted into the IN.
 

Guynextdoor

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it does also detect maritime assets the relay of the data to aircraft is primarily in offensive role, but in a defensive role, just for surveillance, it can be used.

An airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system is an airborne radar picket system designed to detect aircraft, ships and vehicles at long ranges and perform command and control of the battlespace in an air engagement by directing fighter and attack aircraft strikes.

Limited utility. Maritime surveillance usually means submarine detectors. Lack of line of site obstruction otherwise increases overall effectiveness of sea and shore based radar
 

suryakiran

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These countries don't have a sizable air force to operate an AEW&C.

I meant manned by Afghan (Indian) personnel. ;) Flying that while the F-16 and JF-17s are flying and passively capturing data will be good experience. Also, when they conduct ground exercises we could do SIGINT work.
 

Kshithij Sharma

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What surveillance are you referring to here? The primary use of AWACS is not for maritime surveillance but air space command and control. It manages the air battlespace by directing air assets. For maritime surveillance platforms like P-3 Orion /P-8 Poseidon are suitable. For AWACS to have a utility they need a sizable airforce.
AEWACS look at both aerial and ground via their air to air and SAR mode. There is no way to observe ground movement in any other way. If you want to watch the ground, you must be watching from the sky. So, AEWACS are primarily designed for both aerial and ground surveillance.

The P8 is an ASW plane which can detect and act against submarines. These planes have sonar buoys that can be dropped into the sea and then dragged along so as to find submerged vehicle. These buoys is what makes them ASW specialist. In addition, they have anti submarine missiles which can be dropped from air and then it becomes a torpedo to hit the submerged vehicle.

also .. I see that in the airborne early warning system for India - we are missing the Indian Navy's AEWC helicopters:


The Ka-31's airborne electronic warfare radar, mounted on its underbelly, can track 30-40 surface and air targets simultaneously.

The navy already has a fleet of nine Ka-31 helicopters, which are deployed on India's only aircraft carrier INS Virat and the Talwar Class guided missile stealth frigates of the navy.

They also operate from the navy's shore-based air stations.

The Indian Navy's first batch of four Ka-31's entered service in April 2003. The second batch of five was delivered in 2005.
I said primary. If your need is maritime surveillance you don't buy AWACS. A Do-228 can do that.

Can be used but all kind of things but build for a different superior role. Rafale can use its gun but its build for superior role.


This is used by navies with aircraft carrier. ie, for airborne early warning. The priority here is air, not surface.
Aircraft carrier, frigates destroyers have much more powerful radars weighing several tons and consuming several KW of energy which can never be matched by a chopper. The ships generally weigh over 3000 tons and have much higher power generation than what 20ton choppers can generate. So, the aerial surveillance roles of marine choppers are not really important.

The main advantage a chopper has over big ships is that it can look from the sky and spot enemy vehicles like small boats, carry sonar bouys to detect submarine at a much farther distance. Choppers are not mainly intended for aerial surveillance. Choppers don't have enough power generation to power large AESA radars
 

Ashwin

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I meant manned by Afghan (Indian) personnel. ;) Flying that while the F-16 and JF-17s are flying and passively capturing data will be good experience. Also, when they conduct ground exercises we could do SIGINT work.
Afghanistan is a mess now and we couldn't even transfer a T-72 when they asked. Maybe far into the future.