India has signed a deal for three Embraer ERJ-145s that will be converted to carry an indigenous airborne early warning and control system payload. The Brazilian company will help India's Defence Research & Development Organisation to fit its array antenna unit (AAU) onto the aircraft, with the first platform to be delivered in 2011. Financial details were not released, but the entire programme is expected to cost New Delhi around Rp18 billion ($412 million).
"The AEW&C system comprises many subsystems like radar and communication links that are being designed and developed by DRDO," says the Indian defence ministry. "The various subsystems will be integrated into the 'modified green' aircraft by the DRDO and the fully fledged ERJ-145-based AEW&C will be flight tested for mission system in India by the DRDO along with the Indian air force from 2012."
The development comes nine years after India's original indigenous AEW&C programme came to a standstill after a Hawker Siddeley HS748 testbed with a prototype radar crashed. Several scientists who were integral to the programme were killed in the accident, and India has been trying to resurrect the programme since.
"In our commitment to a long-term relationship with the Indian government, we look forward to continue collaborating in strengthening the country's airborne operational capabilities," says Luiz Carlos Aguiar, Embraer's executive vice-president for defence.
The modified ERJ-145 will have a service ceiling of 35,000ft (10,700m), a radar operational altitude of 25,000ft and extra internal fuel tanks to allow in-flight refuelling, says the DRDO. The primary sensor will be an active electronically scanned array radar with two planar arrays mounted on top of the fuselage in a dorsal unit, and capable of air and sea surveillance.
The secondary radar will have an identification friend or foe function, while communication and electronic support measures will also enable the aircraft to detect and identify hostile emitters. A self-protection suite will consist of missile approach and radar warning receivers, plus countermeasures dispensers.
Interoperability with other AEW&C aircraft and fighters will be provided using datalinks and a mission communications system providing UHF voice and data channels, says the DRDO. The ERJ-145s will complement three Ilyushin Il-76s equipped with Elta Systems Phalcon radars, the first of which will be delivered in September, and Indian navy Kamov Ka-31 radar picket helicopters.
Neighbouring Pakistan has objected to the purchase of the Phalcon systems, claiming that the capability could tilt the regional strategic balance in New Delhi's favour. Islamabad is meanwhile acquiring four Saab 2000-based AEW aircraft with Saab Microwave Systems Erieye surveillance radars, plus one training aircraft.