New Delhi’s Defence Research Development Organisation is awaiting final approvals for its Airbus A330-200 based Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft.
The acquisition awaits approval by the Cabinet Committee for Security, say officials familiar with the requirement.
Initially two aircraft will be acquired. There will be a follow on order for four additional aircraft.
The A330 platform was selected in 2015 following a request for proposals from the DRDO. Boeing did not reply to the RFP.
The aircraft will be fitted with an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar housed in an external radome.
“This aircraft gives us 360 degree coverage, while the EMB-145 only offers 240 degrees coverage with its plank array,” says the official.
New Delhi acquired three EMB-145s, which were fitted with an indigenously produced radar. The Indian Air Force officially inducted the type at this year’s Aero India.
The A330 platform, designated as AWACS (I), will have 11 operators, as opposed to five aboard the EMB-145. The extra space aboard the aircraft will house an auxiliary power unit and provide accommodation for additional operators.
Endurance will be nine hours, compared with five for the Embraer platform. The official says that no accommodation will be made to equip AWACS (I) with the ability to be refuelled in the air.
In a press briefing, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said that New Delhi’s relative weakness in AEW&C assets is something that needs to be rectified.
In addition to its EMB-145s, the Indian air force also operates three Ilyushin Il-76s equipped with IAI’s Phalcon radar.