The first of the three Indian Air Force (IAF) AWACS platform landed on Indian soil escorted by the venerable Mig-29 and Jaguar fighters at the IAF’s Jamnagar airbase, on Monday.
The AWACS is a tripartite venture amongst India, Russia and Israel.
The IAF laid down the operational requirements in detail based on which the Israeli ‘Phalcon’ radar was mounted on the Russian IL-76 aircraft equipped with the more powerful PS-90A engines making it more advanced than many such systems.
This is the first of a total of three AWACS that the IAF is slated to receive.
The remaining two are expected to be inducted into the IAF by 2010 and all the AWACS would be based at Agra.
India is one of the few countries to have inducted the AWACS in their Air Forces.
The AWACS is a true ‘force-multiplier’ that gives a quantum jump to the operational capabilities of the Indian Air Force.
Known as the Air Force’s ‘Eye in the Sky’, it is capable of detecting intruders over sea and land at large distances.
It has many other capabilities including Electronic and Signal Intelligence gathering.
Once operationalised alongwith the Operational Data Link (ODL), Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS) and the Air Force Net (AFNET), the IAF would be able to take a definitive step towards Net Centric Operations.
Except for a limited “view” of China, the IAF will now have the strategic reach of monitoring aircraft, missile and ground troop movements across the length and breath of all its neighbours, including much of Pakistan’s and Myanmar’s territory. Equally significant, the AWACS will also be able to direct the IAF’s fighter aircraft to their targets with precision. This force-multiplier will also form part of the IAF’s efforts at developing a countrywide integrated command, control and surveillance system comprising a mix of military satellites, unmanned aerial aircraft, aerostats and conventional radars.
But India is not the only country to have this sophisticated technology in the region. China already possesses such systems and has decided to acquire IL-76 aircraft from Russia to convert into AWACS to add to its existing fleet. Pakistan has contracted the purchase of six such systems from Sweden and signed agreements for an unspecified number from China.
Hence the induction of this sophisticated technology had become necessary for India. Future wars in the subcontinent, if any, are bound to be more challenging and complicated. Wars these days are fought in different ways and call for effective deterrence, projection and capability. The induction of AWACS in the IAF is, therefore, both a welcome and necessary step. Continuous vigilance, after all, is the best defence.