Indian AWACS Reloaded: Competition For 6 Aircraft Announced

A six-aircraft AWACS fleet for the Indian Air Force is now properly under way. After formal project sanction a year ago, the Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) has opened a global competition to supply six aircraft that will be suitably modified as part of the competition, to support the AWACS role — principally a 10-metre antenna radome.
The development runs parallel to the in-progress three aircraft DRDO AEW&C programme, based on the ERJ 145 business jet. The Indian Air Force currently operates three Il-76-based PHALCON AWACS jets from its Agra station, with talks in progress for two more identical systems. The DRDO’s last tryst with a conventional AWACS system ended in tragedy when the modified HS748 Avro based test aircraft crashed in southern India in January 1999 killing eight scientists and crew on board. The accident shelved the programme indefinitely, resurfacing many years later first as the DRDO-Embraer platform, and now the new proposed AWACS.
The DRDO hasn’t specified what aircraft type it requires, but said it requires vendors to designing, structurally modify, certifying and supplying six aircraft llatforms for AWACS role. In addition, the winning vendor will be required to design and manufacture the AWACS 10-metre antenna dome, attachment (pylon) structure and dome installation.
DRDO will be looking to draw interest from vendors include Boeing, Saab, Airbus, UAC (Ilyushin, Antonov, Sukhoi), Bombardier and Dassault Aviation.

Stupefying, if you ask me: three aircraft platform types for largely the same mission. Inventory and support nightmare that goes against everything the IAF has been working for in terms of type commonality. 

27 thoughts on “Indian AWACS Reloaded: Competition For 6 Aircraft Announced”

  1. Hello Shiv,
    DRDO AEW&C ERJ 145 was a AESA or PESA radar.
    Since it has no moving part it is claimed to be AESA in interviews but technological focus it mentions "active electronically scanned phased array technology" on
    under "Long-Range Solid-state Active Phased Array
    But i have read it contains TR module and Dr Avinash Chander had told it is Passive array in interview with Bharat Kavach.

  2. Waste of money. We have 4 types of transport already , one of them can be used for AWACS : C130, C17, planned Russian m MRTA and planned AVRO replacement.

  3. Oye.. charlataan….. picked from tenders… so what do you want to import these machines from israel and fck up local talent.Is this the next iteration of any tecnological organisation. Leave ur fcked up tv mind in the news room and think freshly!

  4. reorganise drdo, hal and all r n d facilities first. They r like beggars. They need every project to be called national project. Where is the experience gained from manufacturing so many aircrafts under licence. Not to mention designing a fighter. Have they forgotten it? Cant we manufacture a multi purpose aircraft to be used as transport, awacs, tanker, gunship/tactical bomber? Airforce is screwed up again as it has to deal with 3 awacs types. Why dont we develope a multi purpose engine first to avoid tejas like scenario. We should learn from chinese who are replacing russian engines in chinese made su 27 copies with a local one.

  5. So the project explicitly specifies a 10m antenna, yet Dassault, Saab, Bombardier all have viable platforms just like Airbus and Boeing? WTF? And if Dassault and Bombardier are on that list, why not Embraer?

    You mention inventory and support costs, but there is also personnel training, due to different airframe and mission systems which require separate training regime. If Dassault and Bombardier are offering here, I don't understand why Embraer isn't, and why they shouldn't have an inbuilt advantage re: lifecycle costs considering the training/personnel issue. (Alternatively, the same mission system on Embraer AEW&C can be fitted to another airframe)

  6. UAC could bid either a Superjet based platform, or the latest Il-76 variant, the so-called Il-476 with newer engines and avionics.

    Il-476 currently uses the latest PS-90, but depending on when IAF wants this in service, they could integrate the latest Russian engine PD-14 which is on-par with LEAP-X. I believe PD-14 is now the planned engine for MTA, so that would allow broader commonality.

    Airbus could potentially offer an A330 NEO based platform but that is not even launched in it's civil version as of now, and doing so would mean less commonality with IAF A330 "CEO" based MRTT tankers.

  7. Re: your comment about new types, of course one of the mentioned bidders (Ilyushin) would not necessarily introduce a new type at all, or perhaps only a modernized version of the existing A-50, with at least some degree of commonality. Il-476 has different avionics of the platform itself, but the mission systems could be identical, or at least some basic commonality could be retained between them. The current I-476 uses PS-90 engines like India's current A-50, so that would be one basis. If it is offered with PD-14 though (breaking that commonality), that MAY even allow it to be competitive as a platform with A330 CEO.

  8. Correction, Antonov is not a part of UAC, and seeing present scenario, it might be, if Russians capture it's hq too.

  9. DRDO will be looking to draw interest from vendors include Boeing, Saab, Airbus, UAC (Ilyushin, Antonov, Sukhoi), Bombardier and Dassault Aviation.

    The Embraer KC-390, I think, could be adapt to a very good medium AWACS platform.

  10. Antonov design house is not owned by UAC, but UAC is a critical production partner of several Antonov products, including An-148 which I believe would be the relevant Antonov product in this context. Not to mention any AWACS variant would no doubt have even more Russian involvement for the radar and mission suite, thus associating Antonov and UAC is more than reasonable. To note, it is never stated that Antonov is owned by UAC.

  11. Why in the hell would India EVER induct Embraer C-390 to serve as AWACS? It is excessively optimized for heavy load unlike civil platforms like A320/MS21, and even disregarding that aspect, India is ALREADY heavily involved in an exact equivalent to it, in the form of MTA, a JV with UAC. C390 brings nothing to the table.

  12. MTA with PS90 engines will be comparable to C390 in range and related specs. With PD-14M engines, which are more than plausibe to see at EIS, it will easily be signifigantly superior, as in ~15% range/loiter advantage. And India is even centrally involved in the design/production of MTA, so why should it give up capability advantages, fleet commonality advantages, and local production advantages? Brazilian vacation for somebody?

  13. An A320/MS21 based platform would be interesting if IAF is apparently considering both wideboy 767/330 based AWACS and smaller business/regional jet based ones, a single aisle A320/MS21 platform would be a reasonable compromise… although some business jets have very long range/loiter the payload capability/radar size and onboard mission suite would be much less, while a single aisle could support a capability largely equivalent to a wide-body. The question is how much does IAF want to pay for integrating a bespoke product, vs. buying off the shelf.

  14. As Shiv's post discussed, proliferation of platforms irrespective of fleet commonality is absurd. Pursuing some level of commonality is just basic logic. What that level of commonality is unclear, purchasing the exact same platforms is forgoing the benefit of ongoing technology progress. But that still leaves fitting new radars/mission suites to identical platforms, using new platforms that are used for other purposes within India, or using new platforms that share some components with other platforms already used, e.g. engines, mission suite, etc. Any divergence from 100% commonality should ideally have some commonality with something else, e.g. broadly used commercial platforms that will persist for most of the life of the new AWACS.

  15. An absolute waste of money………..scrap the hunt for platform……….use existing platform……else will be nightmarish scenario for IAF dealing with logestics……….

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