Indigenous AEW Debuts at Aero India Show

 - February 15, 2013, 12:25 PM
The Embraer 145 is the platform for India’s indigenous AEW&C development. The prototype aircraft is seen here during a flypast at the Aero India show. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

India’s indigenous airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system made its debut at Aero India 2013. The Embraer 145 flew on the opening day and remained in the static for two more days. A cutaway scale model on display revealed the operator positions and equipment placement, and further details were made available by the Center for Air Borne Systems of Defense Research and Development Organization (CABS-DRDO).

Embraer Defense and Security delivered the first and second of three “green” EMB-145s to India in August and December last year. The $210 million order includes training, technical support, supply of spare parts and ground support equipment. The Brazilian company says the aircraft “feature major capabilities such as in-flight refueling, significant increase in electric and cooling capacity and a comprehensive set of structural changes that will allow the installation of the advanced mission systems that have been developed by CABS.”

CABS says the whole of last year was devoted to ground-testing the radar in a system test and integration rig, anechoic chamber, roof-top test rig, planar near field measurement facility and indoor far field. The converted prototype made its first flight in January, and by the time of the Aero India show, the radar had been operated with the aircraft on the ground. Radar flight-testing is slated to begin “within a month or two,” according to CABS. The second converted aircraft should be airborne later this year, but CABS’s claim that the system will achieve initial operating capability early next year seems optimistic.

CABS claims to have developed this S-band radar system entirely in India. CABS director S. Christopher explained, “The program is an indigenous effort to guarantee against technology-denial by nations that have acquired these systems already.” However, a closer look reveals considerable similarities to Sweden’s Erieye AEW radar developed by Saab. But the AESA transmit-receive modules are produced locally, and local specialists are integrating the system. Various DRDO establishments are providing key components, including the self-protection suite, and the datalink and communication systems.

An earlier Indian attempt to develop an AEW system ended in 1999 with the crash of the Avro 748 technology demonstrator. Instead, the Indian air force acquired three Beriev A-50EI Phalcon Awacs, an aircraft that consists of an Il-76MD-90A carrying Israel’s IAI EL/W-2090 radar and mission software from Russia’s Vega. During the Aero India show, it become known that India is negotiating for two more A-50EIs.