Tuesday 16 July 2019, 07:33 AM
Awacs: Eye in the Sky
By IANS | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 4/24/2011 12:00:00 AM
Eurofighter

 

The articulation of India’s threat perceptions in the current regional security environment suggests that most of the threats emanate from the Indian borders with Pakistan and China. India’s overall position in South Asian region is remarkable. It has a long land frontier of around 14,880 km and a coastline of 5,422 km. India also has a total of 1,197 islands accounting for 2,094 km of additional coastline. In fact, barring Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Delhi and Haryana, all other states in India have one or more international borders or a coastline and can be regarded as frontline states from the point of view of border management and surveillance.
It must be emphasised here that many of the national security related problems emanate in India from the bordering states. It would be relevant and worthwhile exercise to examine various issues relating to the maintenance of India’s national security and what role Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) can play in terms of enhancing India’s airborne effectiveness and capabilities.
Pak-China centric 
Pakistan would keep involving itself with the cross-border terrorism and proxy war more particularly in Jammu and Kashmir with the single minded aim of destabilising India. In the current scenario, it is evident that the offensive agenda of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to promote terrorist activities in Kashmir valley and elsewhere in India is expected to intensify. Pakistan will continue to pose a threat to India’s security. India under this probable and futuristic scenario certainly would require strengthening its overall preparedness and readiness to cope up with the emerging situations. It must be pointed out here that India’s relationship with other bordering countries including China is certainly not on a high pitch. India has a long standing border dispute with China. China-Pakistan nexus also creates problems for India.
Indigenous AWACS 
India way back in the year 1992 established Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) at Bangalore as a national laboratory of Defence Research and Development Organisation and launched indigenous AWACS project. The initiation of this project was very much in line and consonance with India’s needs and requirements based on its threat perceptions. The larger objective was to strengthen the base and capabilities of Indian Air Force. The world in general and India in particular had also seen the capabilities of AWACS during the first Gulf War during the Operation Desert Storm of 1991 and later on the potential of AWACS were absolutely utilised and exploited during the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Project setback
India’s keenness to acquire AWACS grew because of its growing concerns with adversaries in its neighborhood. India’s indigenous effort got derailed after the crash of one of its prototype meant for technology demonstration in 1999. The project got shelved. After a lull and downslide, the AWACS project at CABS again resumed in 2004. Meanwhile, India faced several crises with Pakistan. Kargil in 1999 and Op. Parakram deployment in 2002 crisis which lasted for more than ten months after the attack on Indian Parliament.
US embargo
Indian Air Force wanted to acquire AWACS from abroad if We are not able to build indigenously. India initiated track one dialogues with Israelis for the acquisition of AWACS. The existence of ‘No-Supervision Agreement’ between the United States and Israel prohibited India to get it from Israel for some time. Israel was not allowed to conduct trade and commerce with 27 countries listed by the United States unless it has been approved as a special case. India figured in the list. US blocked Israel to supply AWACS to India.
 Indo-US thaw 
The change in the atmospherics of the Indo-US relations in recent years provided impetus to Israel for the supply of AWACS to India. The Indian Air Force finally inducted its first “eye-in-the-sky” AWACS during May 2009. The AWACS had flown from Israel to the Jamnagar airbase in Gujarat in fruition of a US$ 1.1 billion deal for the three AWACS.
Quantum jump 
The capabilities of Indian Air Force got boosted because of the induction of AWACS. The AWACS has the ability to detect aircraft, cruise missiles and other flying objects at ranges far greater than is possible through existing systems. The best part of AWACS has been that it can collate surface information about troop movements and missile launches much in advance and hence a nation like India which has been surrounded by unfriendly neighbours can take effective steps in the readiness and defence preparedness. The AWACS can also provide with all very relevant confidential communications between the enemy’s frontline units.
The AWACS can also track several hundred friendly and enemy aircraft at once. It acts as an airborne command centre for aircraft. The friendly planes are always kept out of each others’ way and hence, there was not a single friendly air-to-air collision during the 1991 Gulf War, or in the 2001 Afghanistan air campaign.
AWACS-AFNET synergy 
The communications and navigation systems on board an AWACS allow information gathered by one AWACS to be quickly disseminated and shared with other AWACS in the vicinity. It has other capabilities including Electronic and Signal Intelligence gathering (ELINT & SIGINT). India would reap the benefit after it is operationalised along with the Operational Data Link (ODL), Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS) and the Air Force Net (AFNET). It would be useful for making network-centric operations more robust.
India-Russia-Israel link
The AWACS, which India has inducted, is a tripartite venture amongst India, Russia and Israel. The specifications and operational requirements were laid down in detail by the Indian Air Force. The Israeli ‘Phalcon’ radar was mounted on the Russian IL-76 aircraft, which has been equipped with the more powerful PS-90A engines. It is fitted with phased array radars which makes it an advanced system. India is among few countries in possession of AWACS.
Indo-Brazil project 
India will be acquiring few more AWACS in the next couple of years. The remaining two ‘Phalcon’ fitted aircraft are expected by the end of 2010. Brazil’s Embraer has signed a contract to deliver 3 ERJ-145 jets, which would be modified into AWACS aircraft by adding radar systems created in India’s various defence research and development labs.
It would require time and effort for India’s scientific community to develop AWACS indigenously.

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Awacs: Eye in the Sky

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