Indian AWACS Reloaded: Competition For 6 Aircraft Announced

A six-aircraft AWACS fleet for the Indian Air Force is now properly under way. After formal project sanction a year ago, the Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) has opened a global competition to supply six aircraft that will be suitably modified as part of the competition, to support the AWACS role -- principally a 10-metre antenna radome.

The development runs parallel to the in-progress three aircraft DRDO AEW&C programme, based on the ERJ 145 business jet. The Indian Air Force currently operates three Il-76-based PHALCON AWACS jets from its Agra station, with talks in progress for two more identical systems. The DRDO's last tryst with a conventional AWACS system ended in tragedy when the modified HS748 Avro based test aircraft crashed in southern India in January 1999 killing eight scientists and crew on board. The accident shelved the programme indefinitely, resurfacing many years later first as the DRDO-Embraer platform, and now the new proposed AWACS.

The DRDO hasn't specified what aircraft type it requires, but said it requires vendors to designing, structurally modify, certifying and supplying six aircraft llatforms for AWACS role. In addition, the winning vendor will be required to design and manufacture the AWACS 10-metre antenna dome, attachment (pylon) structure and dome installation.

DRDO will be looking to draw interest from vendors include Boeing, Saab, Airbus, UAC (Ilyushin, Antonov, Sukhoi), Bombardier and Dassault Aviation.

Stupefying, if you ask me: three aircraft platform types for largely the same mission. Inventory and support nightmare that goes against everything the IAF has been working for in terms of type commonality. 

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