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India buys 3 Embraer 145 for AEW role

  Published : July 2008

New Delhi/ São José dos Campos. India will buy three Embraer 145 jets from Brazil for integrating the DRDO-designed and built AEW radar for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

According to separate announcements by the Indian government and Embraer, or Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica S.A., the Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) System will be developed and supplied by the Bangalore based Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) for the Indian Air Force (IAF) while the manufacturer will modify its EMB 145 to integrate the Indian design.

The two sides have been in discussion for some time. At the Aero India 2007 air show in Bangalore, CABS had displayed a model of its Electronically Scanned Array radar in the Advanced Early Warning (AEW) role fitted on an Embraer jet. CABS is a unit of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which has shown some remarkable successes in the recent past.

The deal, reportedly for US$ 210 million, includes a comprehensive logistics package that includes training, technical support, spare parts, and ground support equipment. Embraer will modify its regional jet aircraft, EMB-145 to carry the Active Array Antenna Unit (AAAU), developed by the DRDO, on the aircraft's fuselage.

It may be noted that all the three services, IAF, Army and Navy, are looking for 21st century ISR capabilities, and IAF already has ordered three AWACs fitted with highly potent Israeli Phalcon radars on board the Russian IL 76 aircraft. The Embarer AEWs will supplement them for shorter range missions.

The first of the three Phalcon AWAC jets, built and integrated by the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and its subsidiary ELTA, is due for delivery later this year.

IAF is considering to acquire three more AWACs aircraft.

Israeli itself is flying the Phalcon system on board a Gulf stream Executive jet for about two years now.

Both the Phalcon and DRDO units will be capable of detecting aircraft and cruise or ballistic missiles, and give timely information to the ground and airborne units for counter-offensive.

Sources told India Strategic that an important element in this capability would be that irrespective of their origins, both the IL 76 and Embraer based ISR units would be "able to talk to each other as well as to ground and airborne units for timely action, and they would also be capable of connectivity through satellites."

"Connectivity is the key to precision engagement in today's defensive systems and this has to be assured in IAF, Naval and Army assets," sources pointed out.

Both the aircraft would do surveillance over land, air and sea for oncoming threats, and direct appropriate action from warfighters to counter them.

According to an Embraer statement, three modified EMB-145 aircraft will be developed under this agreement; the first one to be delivered in three years, which added that the proven ERJ 145 platform is currently being used on ISR missions in Brazil, Mexico and Greece.

The deal was signed in New Delhi July 3rd between Dr S Christopher, Director, Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS), DRDO, and Mr Luis Carlos Aguiar, Executive Vice President (Defence and Govt Market), M/s Embraer, in the presence of Mr Marco Brandao, Brazilian Ambassador, and Mr M Natarajan, Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister.

The various sub-systems of the AEW&C Mission system will be integrated into the 'modified green' aircraft by DRDO in Brazil and the full-fledged EMB-145 based AEW&C will be flight tested for Mission systems in India by DRDO along with IAF from 2012. The AEW&C system comprises many sub-systems like Radar and communication links that are being designed and developed by DRDO.

A few EMB-145 based AEW&C/AWACS versions are already in operation with Air Forces of Brazil, Mexico and Greece.

Embraer said that the first delivery is scheduled for 2011. The three aircraft will be outfitted by the customer with cabin equipment and mission systems, and will join four Legacy jets in operation by the Indian Air Force (IAF) used to transport Indian VIPs, as well as foreign dignitaries.

A fifth Legacy jet belongs to the paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF), under India's Home Ministry.

It may be recalled that DRDO has been experimenting with AEW capability for some time. Its one experimental system, based on an Avro HS 748 propeller-driven aircraft, crashed a few years ago, apparently due to the mismatch between a relatively weak platform and the ISR radar equipment.

One advantage today is that electronics are lighter in weight, and more capable as their radar domes or receivers do not have to move from side to side or rotate, but just scan a given area with beams at high speed.

DRDO scientists have built sufficient knowledge in electronically scanned array radars, and this is helping in developing the indigenous systems.

Brazil is operating its own EMB 145 aircraft for ISR missions with the Swedish Erieye system built by Ericsson Microwave.

  © India Strategic  
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