A330 For Indian AWACS, Tanker Deal Still In The Air

The Indian MoD today sanctioned $818 million (Rs 5113 crore) for the country’s indigenous AWACS programme, with a go-ahead to order two modified Airbus A330 widebody jets as the platform. Funds for four additional jets for a total of six will come through later. 
The decision ends suspense on a single bidder situation, as first reported by Livefist last month, and gets things rolling on what will be, in effect, the Indian Air Force’s third separate platform for a comparable mission. The IAF currently operates three Il-76 based Phalcon AWACS jets (and is processing paperwork for two more) and will take delivery of the first of two Embraer-DRDO EMB-145i AEW&C jets this year.
This is good news for Airbus, but there are, of course, nuances and implications:
  1. First, the A330 platform will now be yoked to progress on the indigenous AWACS radar and systems. As the Airbus platform hasn’t supported (or been tested as) an AWACS before, the programme will present several deep challenges on both sides. Of course, the fact that Airbus even sent in a bid meant that they’re presumably on board for whatever it takes. Interestingly, Boeing, which has AWACS experience with the E-3, says it didn’t bid because, “Boeing recognizes the complexity of the system requires an incremental development program to successfully manage the program risks and ensure an affordable program. As currently structured, the RFP does not support this approach.”
  2. Second, and on the other hand, the programme could perhaps offer Airbus a low-risk opportunity to push its A330 platform into real special mission aircraft territory. It has wanted to do that for a while to stretch the A330 out on the lines of the 767. The Indian programme is small enough not to shackle things down.
  3. Third, while Airbus will welcome the all clear to the A330, it still has no clarity on the far more pressing and delayed deal for eight A330 MRTTs for the IAF, that’s been stalled for two years in ‘final negotiations’. While Airbus officials say they have indications that the deal will go through this year, there’s no official clarity yet.
  4. The MoD’s decision to provide rare sanction for single bid program may gladden Airbus — it’s currently a sole bidder for the IAF’s HS748 Avro transport replacement programme, offering its C295 with Indian partner Tata. A decision on that bid is currently with the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) too, the same body that approved the A330 for AWACS buy today.

20 thoughts on “A330 For Indian AWACS, Tanker Deal Still In The Air”

  1. Can anyone explain why we need 3 different platforms to essentially do the same mission?

    Someone needs to be done to explain to the IAF about standardisation, and the logistics footprints of such a diverse fleet of aircraft.

    IAF is like a good aircraft zoo .. have 2 of each species. The last animal in this zoo is the donkey.. represented by the Indian tax payer.

  2. I agree ….. there is no concrete plan with IAF, its just a shopping exercise for Officers & no long term plan to create capability or industry !!!!!

    Why IAF has void of leadership ?? does US will buy Tejas or LCH ?? why not develop them to a point where they know we have it…..

    Even Tejas is nothing without GE engines !!

  3. It us good that IAF has chosen Airbus. The IL76 based AWAAC was good decision for its time. Our airforce would gave learnt a lot.
    We should commend IAF to back local R&D program.

  4. The Airbus is a commercial platform, and it's maintenance benefits from the scale of commercial operations. Adding it to the mix. so to speak, will only reduce IAF maintenance/operation costs, even if adding a type is "bad" according to simplistic rule.

    Eventually the Ilyushin will be retired and A330 can take over that role compeletely. That dynamic, of a new generation slowly being inducted with the old generation only retired when finally it makes financial sense, is going to come up across any and all services.

    The Embraer do not have the same role/mission as either Ilyushin/Airbus. Might as well throw in naval AEW&C helicopters to "does similar but different role" file.


    The news about IAF An-32 "disappearing" (i.e. stolen) while in Ukraine for maintenance could possibly impact program schedules for Avro replacement… If service lifetime/availability is significatnly impacted by this, that just may be enough to stop screwing around and go for a sole-source contract with EADS/CASA, likely dropping the pretention to tie it to civil airliner project (which could still go forward, but de-couple it from Avro replacement). Alternative platforms/projects exist, such as Il-112V/Il-114"NEO" but can't offer the immediate availability that EADS can.

  5. @ KANA,

    There are another 100 units of AN-32 left in the Indian Air Force out of which 35 are modernised ones. Are you suggesting that IAF decommission them and start IMPORTING Airbus built C-295 now ??

    This is actually a golden chance for IAF to look for spare parts and sub-components from west and modernise them in India with the help of Indian private/public companies as the Ukrainian OEM has failed. So there is a a bit of leverage and freedom from strict licencing rules.

    But you suggest that IAF should take this as another opportunity to get a new IMPORTED transport platform ??? How longer this import love will go on in India's Imported yet Impotent Air Force ?? These Air Marshals should stop lobbying for imports because it shows the ugly nature of their dependency on foreign OEMs while they claim to be the nuclear capable great power.

    Such a shame !!

  6. @ All the above armchair strategists
    No love lost for anyone/ IAF, DRDO etc BUT… where the fuck should the country go if the DRDO cannot develop anything worthwhile without JV/Partnership/ ( sophisticated name for Copy and Reverse Engineer) ?
    What to do if NOT and SINGLE F***king Indigenous programme is within timelines and budgets?
    What to do if NOT a Single INDIGENOUS product is actually INDIGENOUS?
    What to do if no accountability for failures/Late/ poor quality / over budget Indigenous industry?
    What to do if there is War in the many decades in between?
    Who is responsible for loss of op capability?
    Give a credible cool thought to the implications of your half-assed, c**tiya "Suggestions" and thougts.
    Next…Read the f***king DPP..
    Who controls defence procurement?
    Not the Man in Uniform you c**ts
    its the Babus, etc
    Stop this shit trend of Blaming the Services for the ills of Procurement bureaucracy.
    And if you think you can do a better job..you are f**king welcome to take it up the a**e, and listen to comments like the potty above

  7. @Anonymous 7:10 PM –

    *extermely loud and thunderous applause*

    hats off ! one could not have put it more articulately.

    One addition, Why does IAF have dual things for the same purpose ?

    Because my dear "Arm chair Air Marshals" in the event of military operations some countries may levy sanctions and cut spares or supplies not only during conflict but well after that as well.

    If the west does it, the eastern aircraft can still be employed etc.

    Till the time we dont have indegenization, this is what India has to do to stay effective.

  8. @ anonymous 7.10 PM.. Must say u make a lot of sense..although lets keep it clean guys.. Men in uniform dont give a damn about what any one says specially MISS KNOW IT ALLs of the like we hv seen above.. Their actions r based on serious threat perception n surely not to take joy rides in different aircrafts…further they take orders only from the govt n nothing they procure goes without a series of approvals.. Guys if its coming down to just 6 a330s then believe me the actual requirement must be atleast 20.. Do u even know that in fact majority of our frontiers r un manned by radar !? An Abbotabad is just waiting to happen fr us.. U can convieniently blame the ill prepared fauj then..
    All the 3 services have been banging their head trying to get Mod do something about Indegenous accountability.. HAL/DRDO R LIKE SPOILT CHILDREN NO ACCOUNTIBILTY NO CONSEQUENCES UNLIMITED PAISA NO RESULTS.. Its the iafs dream to have an efficient system of local production because only then can their be higher servicibility better spare repacement n no more dealing with arm twisting by foreign suppliers. Indegenous efforts r to be lauded but u cant wait fr 10 yrs to get an awacs can u? U need it fr now not to scan the skies 10 yrs later!!
    Till hal cant build an intermediate jet trainer n cant make its own basic trainer to cost a fortune..lets stick with airbus fr the biggies..

  9. Let us not give much importance to this kind of articles. All these articles will never give any true picture. This is one way to get extra income. But at the same time general public will get a true picture from the comments.'I do not believe whatever written is true because I know the fact. The present MOD will not clear a proposal for AWACs, since he is well aware that GPS will be operational very soon.It is risky to use AWACs during war because it can be destroyed by air to air missiles. Pakistan has purchased 500 Nos. AIM-120 C-5 AMRAAMBVR mainly to use against Indian AWACs. GPS cannot be destroyed by missiles. Present MOD knows all these facts.

  10. This news is somebodies imagination. There is no surety imagination will come true. This Govt.is entirely different from any past Govt. They will not be carried away army, navy and Air force requirements. MOD is in Japan. What is the superiority that he will not choose the latest Mitsubishi air liner MRJ70 which is cheaper and stealth for the above purpose.

  11. @ Anon 7:10 pm…

    Wow… here is the real warrior who does not want to reveal himself… very brave… LOL….

  12. PM Mohdi should have lobbied the US for that black project advanced radar (both air to air and air to ground) which is now being deployed on US Navy P8 Poseidon and transform India's own P8 into awacs plus ISR

  13. If Armed Forces leadership cannot fight Babus and IAS lobby & get what they want (for their soldiers) then they should RESIGN !!

    Anyway they don't deserve to head Indian Armed Forces, its better to be a tainted VK Singh than be at comfy retirement job thrown by babu's of MoD !!

  14. LOL anon @12:22 pm, you may have missed the irony of your post.

    Then again who am I to point this out. I am sailing on the same "anon" cruise liner.

  15. #Hystericallaughter-Very childish argument pal asking fr resignstions ,disbanding(shocking), 'down with the iaf' type slogans:-p.. Surely the iaf is made of better stuff.. in a democracy like ours choice of weapon is a luxary n not a right..the soldier best realises this n does what he can to better him n his comrades on the front but all within the ambit of the indian democratic framework(unlike its neighbours) and with the govt across the table.. surely u dont want a coup to solve not getting a particular aircraft..

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