New Delhi/Washington: After receiving a cold shoulder from the Indian Navy for Northrop Grumman's Hawkeye 2C aircraft, the US administration has apparently cleared the sale of its most advanced maritime reconnaissance plane, the Hawkeye-2D, to India.
According to a report in the forthcoming issue of India Strategic defence magazine, the Indian Navy had issued an RFI (Request for Information) for the aircraft to the US government some time back.
Although Washington is yet to release this aircraft for export 'it could be sold to countries like India, Egypt, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)', the report added.
The aircraft is still under development and Northrop Grumman is confident that the aircraft would achieve initial operational capability in 2011. Its first test flight was conducted only in August.
It may be kept in mind that the Indian Navy is also evaluating an offering from Boeing and Airbus as well, and has tested equivalent versions of their aircraft.
The advanced Hawkeye-2D looks like the existing Hawkeye-2C but will be much different and better with improved performance.
It will feature the new APY-9 radar, radio suite, mission computer, integrated satellite communications capability, flight management system, improved engines, a new 'glass' cockpit and the ability to refuel in-flight.
A Grumman-built AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar will form part of the spy radar system. This AESA will feature a 360-degree, all-weather rotodome antenna and space-time adaptive processing, digital receivers, Adaptive Detection System (ADS) -18/rotary coupler assembly with a co-aligned IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) suite.
Sources told India Strategic that the Indian Navy had no interest in the existing Hawkeye-2C but the fact that the US was willing to offer a system virtually at the same time as its own navy would induct it, was important. 'The new technology is tempting.'
Sources in Washington confirmed India's interest and said that 'as and when a formal request is received from New Delhi, the answer should be positive.'
The Indian Navy also wanted an enhanced operating range for the aircraft, which would allow it to stay in the air for eight hours instead of six in the existing aircraft.
'Suitable modifications are being planned in the new aircraft by adding wet wings, that is, wings capable of carrying fuel,' the sources said. Besides, the midair refuelling capability would enhance this capability further.
Of about a dozen operators of the existing aircraft, only the US Navy and the French Aviation Navale use their Hawkeye's for shipboard operations, for which they have folding wings.
For shore-based operations, as in the case for India, the wings could be conventional with fuel-carrying capacity.