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India to develop AEW&C aircraft

India's cabinet has approved a plan to develop an indigenous airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft.

In a written response to a cabinet query, defence minister AK Antony said the Cabinet Committee on Security had approved a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) plan to develop the system.

"The development of AWACS (India) is envisaged to be completed in 84 months (seven years) from the date of formal sanction of the programme," says Antony.

He adds that the programme will build upon New Delhi's previous efforts to develop AEW&C systems.

An Indian media report in February quoted an anonymous source as saying that New Delhi will require an aircraft roughly the size of the Ilyushin Il-76 for the new AEW&C programme.

One possible candidate for this could be the twin-engined multirole transport aircraft (MTA) being developed by United Aircraft Corporation and Hindustan Aeronautics.

At the Aero India show in Bangalore in early February, a brochure distribute by the MTA programme representatives listed AEW&C as among the MTA's future missions. The MTA's maiden flight is tentatively planned for 2017.

The February media report also suggested that the new aircraft will have an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar with 360˚ coverage.

India operates six AEW&C aircraft, of which only half are operational. The three operational aircraft are Il-76s equipped with the IAI EL/W-2090 AEW&C radar system.

It has also taken delivery of three Embraer EMB-145, which will carry an AESA radar developed by the DRDO in a fairing above the fuselage. Following the DRDO's installation of a mission system, the aircraft will be handed over to the Indian air force.

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