|A rare air-to-air photo of the prying plane undergoing flight trials.|
By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is expected to receive the first Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) system by the end of this year. Two AEW&C systems, built on modified Embraer EMB-145I aircraft, are undergoing flight trials with one more expected to arrive from Brazil later this year. A senior scientist at the Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) told Express that after handing over the first aircraft, parallel flight tests and fine-tuning of the mission systems on the second aircraft will continue, based on the IAF feed back. The official confirmed that in addition to the air bases in and around Bangalore, the prying plane has already had flight test campaigns in Jamnagar and Agra.
"Being a complex system we need to approach the integration in a systematic manner. Safety is our top priority and we are proceeding cautiously at every step. During the integration process, the performance of all mission systems matched our expectations. We are now testing each of these mission systems in an independent mode, followed by operating them together in an integrated manner," the official said. So far both aircraft have clocked more than 200 sorties, logging over 350 flying hours.
The first public display of the AEW&C system, widely known as the prying plane, was during the IAF Day celebrations in 2012 and early this year, it was taken to Bahrain for an air show. As reported by Express earlier, the Defence Research and Development Organisation is exploring the potential of exporting the system for South American countries.
The official said that Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) has been selected as the ELSA (Engineering and Life Support Agency) for the project. "Since the AEW&C is a highly complex system, its requirement too is in limited numbers. Hence establishing of a dedicated production facility is not viable. The support requirement for the aircraft will be provided by Embraer, while BEL will take care of the mission systems," the official said. He said BEL was selected as the ELSA after undergoing an elaborate process mandated for technology absorption.
With the prying plane programme, India has emerged as one of the few nations after the US, Israel and Sweden to have developed such complex systems. "In addition to owing AEW&C, India can today boast of having developed world class systems on active phased array radar. In the process CABS has also emerged as a premier agency capable of developing airborne surveillance systems," the official said.
CABS has also established cutting edge technologies in areas such as airborne active array antenna, identification of friend or foe systems, mission computers, data handling and display systems, mechanical racks and tactical software to name a few. The IAF has a huge presence at the CABS aiding the prying plane project especially in complex areas of flight testing and evaluation of systems optimally.
Copyright@The New Indian Express
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|Team CABS with the two AEW&C systems in the background. The team is lead by Dr S Christopher.|