India is seeking a joint-venture deal with Embraer to export the EMB-145 AEW&C system, now that it has decided on a larger platform to meet Indian Air Force (IAF) requirements. The country has acquired three of the Brazilian aircraft and equipped them with an indigenous radar system. They are now undergoing trials, and two will enter service with the IAF. But the service will not exercised an option to acquire more such aircraft. Meanwhile, however, India will acquire Airbus A330s as the larger platform. .
S. Christopher, director of the Center for AirBorne Systems (CABS) within the government’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), told AIN that an RFP last year sought a longer-endurance and higher-altitude platform than the EMB-145, on which to integrate the indigenous radar system. The RFP was issued to Boeing for the 767, Airbus for the A330 and Ilyushin for the Il-76. But AIN understands that only Airbus responded with a firm offer. An initial two A330s will be acquired, with an option for four more. The Indian Air Force currently operates three A-50/Il-76s for AEW&C equipped with IAI-Elta Phalcon radars.
Christopher said that any contract for new platforms would also have to include provision for India to export the resulting AEW&C aircraft. “We must be more stringent with the OEMs. We need to keep a hold on costs and upgrade together,” he said. But, he added, the agreement will be restricted to structural modification of aircraft.
The DRDO will face challenges in adapting the current radar system from 240 degrees to 360 degrees of coverage, and from a 24-ton to a 200-ton platform, Christopher acknowledged. “The radar will be expected to have more power and endurance…testbed facilities are limited…and there are electromagnetic challenges,” he added.
Four South Americans countries have shown interest in the EMB-145 AEW&C, which India could jointly export with Embraer, Christopher claimed. He also noted that the radar system could have non-defense surveillance applications, such as countering drug traffickers in South America or animal poachers in Africa. However, AIN has learned that India’s Ministry of External Affairs might take a different view than the DRDO on exportability of the system, claiming that sovereignty would be compromised.
Embraer has a non-exclusive agreement with Saab to offer the EMB-145 with the Swedish EriEye radar system. This combination was selected by the Brazilian air force.