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AWACS delivery delayed till March-end: IAF

February 13, 2009 13:04 IST

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The Indian Air Force will now have to wait till March-end for the Israeli airborne early warning system, whose induction has already been delayed by 16 months.

"The Israeli Phalcon airborne early warning and control system (AWACS), which will provide the IAF an eye in the skies to perform surveillance and reconnaissance roles, will arrive in India only by March-end," a senior IAF officer told PTI in New Delhi [Images] on Friday.

The AWACS mounted on Russian-made IL-76 heavy lift transport aircraft was originally scheduled to be delivered by the Israel Aerospace Industries by November 2007, but could not meet the deadline.

AWACS, a major force multiplier for the Air Force, can provide advance information even as an enemy fighter jet takes off from enemy territory, giving enough time for the IAF to scramble its own fighter jets to counter the enemy aircraft.

It is also an important link in the IAF's plans to go network-centric by establishing an advanced Integrated Air Command and Control System through the Air Force Net communication network.

"With the IAF rapidly progressing with its network centricity plans, AWACS will be an important element -- the air link -- in the IACCS," the officer said.

AWACS will link the IAF's ground and air-based weapon platforms and communication systems, which would be vital for its network-centric operations. With the IAF aiming to become a network-centric force by 2010-11, it has been trying to inter-link its land, air and space assets and platforms to provide real-time information for increasing its situational awareness during conflicts.

Under the AFNET project, the IAF has already linked about 70 per cent of its land-based assets and platforms to the IACCS, the officer said.

India had in March 2004 signed a $ 1.1 billion deal with Israel for the three AWACS fitted on IL-76 platforms that would help the IAF detect incoming hostile cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles much before ground-based radars track the rogue flying machines.

The IAF's Agra [Images] air base has geared up to receive the first AWACS and has got its infrastructure improved by extending the runway, establishing an avionics lab, and integrating ground systems for future operations.

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