New Delhi: Unsubstantiated reports, now emerging in the media, would suggest that the Indian Air Force (IAF) might have modified the specifications for the indigenous airborne early warning and control system (AWACS), including the radar and related equipment, in an effort to increase the payload. The mid-course change would appear to have left the country's premier defence laboratory set up, the defence research and development organization (DRDO) scrambling to organize finances for the acquisition of a larger aerial platform.
According to reports, the IAF has recommended the use of a larger Boeing or Airbus-based platform, rather than the Embraer and Gulf Stream planes that had earlier been short-listed for the programme by the DRDO. The shift to a larger platform, from a mid-sized one of the Embraer variety, pushes costs up by an additional 40-45%, and this apparently has forced DRDO to seek additional funds.
Domestic companies and laboratories currently working with the DRDO on the AWACS project include Bharat Electronics Ltd, the Defence Avionics Research Establishment, and the Electronics and Radar Development Establishment.
As part of a $1.1 billion deal, signed in 2004, Israel is to supply three Phalcon AWACS systems to India with its radar and other systems mounted on three Russian-built Il-76 aircraft. The first of these aircraft are due for delivery from mid-2007.
Reports would also suggest that the current AWACS project would, very likely, take another decade to complete, provided the design, specifications, as well as the platform are now frozen by the IAF.
While some sources point fingers at the defence services for changing specifications mid-way too often, others point to the massive technology churn which the global arms industry is currently experiencing and argue that such mid-course changes cannot be helped.