Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) delivered a Dornier Do-228 modified to act as a flying test bed (FTB) to the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).
The Bengaluru based Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE), will use it for testing airborne radars and other systems. The use of a dedicated flying test bed will reduce the cycle time for development of airborne systems such as maritime patrol radar, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), data-links, electro-optics and Electronic Warfare (EW), says DRDO chief Avinash Chander.
Previously, the DRDO had to borrow Do-228’s belonging to the Indian Navy or Indian Coast Guard when it wanted to flight test radars under development. Operational needs of the two services, however, often meant delays in aircraft being allotted, stalling developmental work on the radars. Equipped with an indigenous SAR, and "a state-of-the-art avionics and communication system," the aircraft will be flown by Indian air force pilots.
The DRDO is pressing on with development of three Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) platforms. It also recently released a global tender for supply of six aircraft to serve as the platforms for its ambitious Airborne Warning and Control System India (AWACS India) programme.
The contract for delivery of a modified Do-228 flying test bed to the DRDO was signed in May 2013 and the aircraft delivered six months ahead of schedule by HAL. Production of the Do-228 in India began in 1984, when HAL began license manufacture of the aircraft at its Kanpur Division, and 124 have been delivered till date.