India to order 2 more Israeli ‘eyes in the sky’ for $1 billion

India is now finally willing to lock the long-pending $1 billion (to be precise) deal to buy two more “Phalcon” airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft from Israel.

Which hasn’t been on board for at least a couple of times in the past due to the high costs involved.

It has been said, “the acquisition of the two AWACS, with the Israeli Phalcon early-warning radar system mounted on Russian Ilyushin-76 heavy-lift aircraft, is all set to get the final nod from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) after extensive inter-ministerial consultations.”

The two new Phalcon AWACS which will add on the range of such aircraft acquired by the IAF in 2009-2011 under a $1.1 billion contract. It will be expected to deliver within three to four years. As quoted, “They will be more advanced than the first three Phalcon AWACS with the latest upgrades.”

AWACS or AEW&C (airborne early-warning and control) aircraft are crucial but critical at the same time in modern warfare. Because they can detect and track fighters in radar, cruise missiles, and drones much better and much before ground-based radars, direct friendly fighters during air combat with enemy jets, and keep tabs on enemy troop build-ups and movement of warships.

But Pakistan is more advanced in India in this crucial has to case. Pakistan has acquired 8-10 Chinese Karakoram Eagle ZDK-03 AWACS and Swedish Saab-2000 AEW&C. China has well over 30, including Kong Jing-2000 “Mainring”, KJ-200 “Moth” and KJ-500 aircraft.

India currently has just three Phalcon AWACS with a 400-km range and 360-degree coverage and two indigenous “Netra” AEW&C aircraft with indigenous 240-degree coverage radars with a 250-km range fitted on smaller Brazilian Embraer-145 jets.

Reported details say that the pending contract of the two new AWACS comes after the defense ministry decided earlier this month to also fast-track the Rs 3,500 crore “Project Cheetah” to upgrade its Israeli Heron drones with laser-guided bombs, air-to-ground anti-tank missiles, and other precision-guided munitions as well as advanced reconnaissance capabilities.

Israel is one of the top arms suppliers to the Indian armed forces. Indian acquisitions over the years range from Barak surface-to-air missile systems, Spyder quick-reaction anti-aircraft missiles, and a wide array of drones and radars to Python and Derby air-to-air missiles, Crystal Maze and Spice-2000 precision-guided munitions.

Also Read: List of weapons that India can make at home — and the ones it cannot