Amidst calls for 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' in all sectors, India is likely to give green signal to buy two more "Phalcon" airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft from Israel at $1 billion. The deal has been getting delayed in the past multiple times due to the costing issue. As per a report in The Times of India, Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is expected to give nod to the deal to acquire two AWACS, with the Israeli Phalcon early-warning radar system mounted on Russian Ilyushin-76 heavy-lift aircraft.
AWACS aircraft to come in next 3-4 years
Currently, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is operating three such aircraft which were inducted in 2009-2011 under a $1.1 billion contract. The additional two aircraft will be added to the fleet in the coming three to four years. One of the person privy to the development said, "They will be more advanced than the first three Phalcon AWACS with the latest upgrades."
Notably, the need for such powerful 'eyes in the sky' was aroused during the Balakot Airstrike across the border and following aerial combat between Air forces India and Pakistan in February 2019. Moreover, as Indian and Chinese forces dig deep in Eastern Ladakh over incursion by latter, the need has been further been reinforced.
AWACS or AEW&C (airborne early warning and control) aircraft are crucial in modern warfare, as it has the capability to detect and track incoming cruise missiles, fighters, and drone ahead of ground-based radars, guide friendly fighters during enemy. Further, they also keep an eye on enemy troop build-ups and warship movement.
India well behind Pakistan and China
India's two enemies Pakistan and China are well ahead in terms of possessing a number of AWACS. Pakistan operates 8-10 Chinese Karakoram Eagle ZDK-03 AWACS and Swedish Saab-2000 AEW&C. China, on the other hand, has more than 30, including Kong Jing-2000 "Mainring", KJ-200 "Moth" and KJ-500 aircraft. In comparison, IAF is operating only three Phalcon AWACS with a 400-km and 360-degree coverage along with two homemade "Netra" AEW&C aircraft with indigenous 240-degree coverage radars installed on smaller Brazilian Embraer-145 jets with a 250-km range.