ACCESS: Up Close With India’s EMB-145i AEW&C

Project Director Dr. K. Rajalakshmi & Assoc. Directors Suma Varughese & M.S. Easwaran 
”We wanted our user to get the best. We had to be customer-driven from the word go,” says Dr. K. Rajalakshmi, project director of the DRDO’s AEW&C project, which, as Livefist reported last week, gets operational this year.
Categorised as a sensitive project given the classified nature of the sensors, electronics and systems on board, Livefist was given rare up-close access to the EMB-145i after it flew a test sortie at Aero India today, and a chance to interview the highly motivated team driving the project to delivery.
The good news is there’s a lot of it. Right after Livefist was given an official tour of the aircraft, the team met with an Indonesian military delegation that has already expressed deep interest in acquiring the comparatively cost-effective Indo-Brazilian platform. Fresh interest has also been shown by Israel and Brazil.

To the global market, DRDO and the MoD offer the EMB-145i in three possible categories: (a) A total solution, available as is (with modified tactical systems according to user needs), (b) As a sensor package adaptable on user-identified platforms, and (c) as a modified version of the EMB-145i that involves a co-development/component model.

“The government is very keen to see this platform exported. They have assured us full backing to get customers,” says Dr Rajalakshmi.
The Indian Air Force will take delivery of two EMB-145i jets this year, completing its order. The third Embraer airframe, expected to arrive from Brazil this year, will be retained by the Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) for research on upgrades and as a first unit for export. Indications are that Indonesia could be first in line for the jet.
“The big advantage is cost-effectiveness,” says Dr Rajalakshmi. “No comparable system has all of the features that the EMB-145i has, and it’s the only aircraft in its class with an in-flight refuelling capability.”

Associate Director Suma Varughese, who spearheads the Active Electronically Scanned radar says the IAF’s involvement in the programme from the start allowed the team to course correct in real time, and being able to deliver a platform that the IAF is fully satisfied with. That satisfaction, gauged for now by the eight member embedded team headed by Air Commodore PL Vithalkar, will be put to the test during user trials commencing soon. The IAF team at CABS is 60-70 strong, and includes designers.

“The sensors and systems are fully Indian, and this is a big advantage for the end user. We want the IAF to get the best,” says M. Easwaran, Associate Director at CABS, and designated project director on the proposed AWACS programme.

All photographs in this post taken and used with permission from DRDO and CABS. More photographs from Livefist’s tour of the jet:

7 thoughts on “ACCESS: Up Close With India’s EMB-145i AEW&C”

  1. It is a fantastic achievement. Maybe all the 30 years of slogging to create a ecosystem will begin paying off now.
    Hats off to all those who laboured so many years. Lot of the. would have retired , will no doubt feel proud of the foundation they helped to setup.

  2. If IAF is so satisfied with the performance of this system then why ordering only 2 when IAF has a requirement of 6 to 10 more AWACS.we have got a vast area to cover and these cost effective systems can do the job for us. They have the inflight refueling capability so coverage area should not be a problem.Now why IAF need 3 diffrent type of AWACS 1. Israel – Russian 2. Indian Brazilian and the 3 one is ( A-330 as per the latest wishlist for IAF ).This will be logical nightmare for any force to maintain such a complex systems with diffrent platforms.

    If we just need to have 2 of such system then why we wasted so much time to indigenously developing them when we have option to buy off the shelf similar systems like the one pak bought.

  3. For me our Indo-Brazillian Project after was a clear under dog in this race for the E-Surveillance India's fleet.
    But with REVO capacity, as the Indian hardware will proven well and trusted in his operational trials, there's a great chance to be a winner cause you can build more systems and use more with the REVO option…
    By the way, how about buy too 4/6 KC-390 from Brazil dedicated to a very fast jet REVO to maintain vigilance with 12 EMB-145I AWACS as long India wishes over a very huge area of the Indie Ocean ?

  4. What's amazing is to see a woman leading this project along with oldies. I wonder whether the selfie generation has noticed this. Currently most qualified IIT students want to rush to the U.S. or as in current fashion sell mobiles or shoes via flip kart. Haha
    Not to put anybody down but where is the excellence?

  5. I hope this is exported to many countries and this could be the start of many more collaborations with Brasil in the aerospace sector.

    The DRDO has to commercialize this, the IAF's orders won't be enough to pay back the development costs.

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