India has taken delivery of its first of three Ilyushin Il-76 transports to be converted into an airborne early warning system aircraft using Elta Systems' Phalcon radar.

Accepted from Israel Aerospace Industries on 24 May, the aircraft was flown to Jamnagar air base in western Gujarat the following day by Indian air force pilots. It was formally inducted during a 26 May ceremony at Palam air base, New Delhi.

The delivery follows an 18-month delay attributed to technical hitches encountered while integrating the Israeli system on to the Il-76 platform.

Acquired under a $1.1 billion deal, the aircraft will be followed by another two modified Il-76s by late 2010. To be based in Agra, the fleet will be used for missions including the tactical surveillance of airborne targets and electronic intelligence gathering, and to manage operations with combat types including the Dassault Mirage 2000 and Sukhoi Su-30MKI.

Indian Il-76 AEW
 © Rami Mizrahi

The Phalcon system is capable of logging 60 targets simultaneously from a range of 400km (216nm), according to Indian sources. Its capabilities will be used in conjunction with data provided by the Risat-2 radar imaging satellite built by the Indian Space Research Organisation in association with IAI and launched in April, they add.

India wants to further bolster its AEW capabilities, and is negotiating the purchase of additional Phalcon-type systems. An Elta-developed variant of the Gulfstream G550 business jet is one candidate, with the system - already in service in Israel and Singapore - having been demonstrated to the Indian air force earlier this year.

Additional reporting by Radhakrishna Rao in Bangalore

Source: Flight International