Although I am a guy with negativityDelays and changes in decisions have affected the expansion of the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) minuscule fleet of AEW aircraft.
Three Embraer 145 Netra AEW platforms developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) were built, and Shephard has learned a repeat order is in the offing for six more EMB-145s.
The DRDO’s Centre for Airborne Studies (CABS) has also designed a 360° radar system to fit on Airbus A330s. These would have complemented and shared commonality with the A330 MRTT, for which bids were released and then cancelled.
However, CABS’ detailed A330 plans have been put aside, citing high aircraft acquisition costs.
It is, therefore, back to the drawing board to turn six 20-year-old A321s into AEW aircraft called the Netra Mk 2. Five A321s were bought from Air India for around $25 million two years ago, but four remain parked at Hindon Air Base near Delhi and one at HAL.
Design work is underway, and discussions are on with OEM Airbus for structural modifications.
As one electronics engineer pointed out, ‘But Airbus cannot start work unless the design is completed. This project could take at least six years.’
Furthermore, Shephard has learned that the modification cost would be similar to the price of buying new aircraft. ‘This is penny wise, pound foolish,’ added the engineer.
S. Christopher, DRDO Chairman, said, ‘One of the dilemmas is delay. The E-145 Netra already has a “Make in India” mantra, learnings are there, and the cost of maintenance is low compared to the Phalcons.’
He added that the CABS’ A330 radome would have given 360° coverage and more endurance. Conversely, ‘The A321s may cost more, take more time and end up with 240° coverage.’
Challenges are many, including technology issues and semiconductor chip availability, but Indian industry is making moves. Controllers and transmit and receive modules (TRM) are key. Cyient-designed lightweight TRMs for the AESA radar are being tested.
Srinivasagopalan Rangarajan, Chairman and MD of Data Patterns, told Shephard his company was working with DRDO on subsystems and radars that would be ready in the next two years.
An official said that if the DRDO transfers technology to private companies, 'it will speed processes'.
The IAF also has three Phalcon AEW platforms, mounted on ageing Il-76 airframes.
But I could say this guy is exaggerating the issue
All 5 or 6 I don't remember perfectly a 321 are undergoing changes and other important procedures as reported by alpha defense
Yeah 4-5 years is sure but if we take decisions late then things will be late
Coming to 360° awacs we could get 2 more phalcons with Israeli radome
But again that thing is bit dilemma
But even 3rd Netra mk1 which is with DRDO can be transe