India has bought three EMB-145s and equipped them with an indigenous AEW&C system but will not acquire any more Credit-Neelam Mathews
India is seeking a joint-venture deal with Embraer to export
the EMB-145 AEW&C system, now that it has decided on a
larger platform to meet Indian Air Force (IAF) requirements. The country has
acquired three of the Brazilian aircraft and
equipped them with an indigenous radar system. They are now undergoing
trials, and two will enter service with the IAF. But the service will not
exercised an option to acquire more such aircraft. Meanwhile, however, India is
evaluating responses to the RFP that
was issued last year for six larger platforms.
S. Christopher, director of the Center for AirBorne Systems
(CABS) within the government’s Defense Research and
Development Organization (DRDO), told AIN that the RFP sought
a longer-endurance and higher-altitude platform than the EMB-145, on which
to integrate the indigenous radar system. The RFP was issued to
Boeing for the 767, Airbus for the A330 and Ilyushin for the Il-76, and a
decision will be made by April, he said. The Indian Air Force currently
operates three A-50/Il-76s for AEW&C equipped with IAI-Elta
Christopher said that any contract for new platforms would
also have to include provision for India to export the resulting AEW&C aircraft.
“We must be more stringent with the OEMs. We need to keep a hold on costs
and upgrade together,” he said. But, he added, the agreement will be restricted
to structural modification of aircraft.
The DRDO will face challenges in adapting the
current radar system from 240 degrees to 360 degrees of coverage, and
from a 24-ton to a 200-ton platform, Christopher acknowledged. “The radar will
be expected to have more power and endurance…testbed facilities are
limited…and there are electromagnetic challenges,” he added.
Four South Americans countries have shown
interest in the EMB-145 AEW&C, which India could
jointly export with Embraer, Christopher claimed. He also noted that the radar
system could have non-defense surveillance applications, such as countering
drug traffickers in South America or animal poachers in Africa. However, AINhas
learned that India’s Ministry of External Affairs might take a different view
than the DRDO on exportability of the system, claiming that
sovereignty would be compromised.
Embraer has a non-exclusive agreement with Saab to offer the EMB-145
with the Swedish EriEye radar system. This combination was selected by the
Brazilian air force.