Embraer is aiming to have the first flight of an ERJ-145 that it is modifying for an indigenous Indian airborne early warning and control system payload in the first half of 2011, and plans to deliver it by the end of the year.

The Brazilian airframer is fitting the Defence Research & Development Organisation's (DRDO) array antenna unit onto the aircraft, say Embraer officials. New Delhi ordered three ERJ-145s in 2008, with the overall programme to cost around 18 billion rupees ($406 million).

India's aircraft will be adapted for inflight refuelling, and also have better electrical generation and cooling systems than similar ERJ-145-based AEW&C platforms, the company officials say. Other examples include five for Brazil, four for Greece and one for Mexico.

India's defence ministry has said that its ERJ-145 AEW&C system will include indigenously designed radar and communication links. The system is expected to start flight tests with the Indian air force in 2012.

The modified regional airliner will have a service ceiling of 35,000ft (10,700m), a radar operational altitude of 25,000ft and extra internal fuel tanks to support in-flight refuelling. Its primary sensor will be an active electronically scanned array radar with two planar arrays mounted on top of the fuselage in a dorsal unit, with the design to be capable of performing 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 new type will complement the Indian air force's three Ilyushin Il-76s, which feature Elta Systems' Phalcon radar, and the Indian navy's Kamov Ka-31 radar picket helicopters.

The development comes 11 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.

Source: Flight International