The Indian Air Force (IAF) has successfully carried out aerial refueling of one its Brazilian-made Embraer EMB-145-based airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platforms.
The recently executed 'probe and drogue' refuelling by an Ilyushin Il-78 tanker was aimed at enhancing the EMB-145’s operational range, the Indian government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) said in a 30 November statement.
“A mere 10-minute-long in-flight refuelling can generate an additional four hours of endurance [for the aircraft]," the PIB stated, adding that this was the first time that an IAF EMB-145 AEW&C platform was refuelled in mid-air.
“The AAR on the Embraer is a good achievement as AEW&C platforms have to remain airborne for extended periods during operations,” said military analyst Air Marshal V K Bhatia (retd). This additional capability will make the EMB-145 AEW&C aircraft a force multiplier for the air force, he added.
The IAF recently took delivery of two of the three EMB-145s it ordered in 2008 for USD208 million. The platforms have been fitted with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)-designed Netra AEW&C systems, which the IAF claims provide 240-degree coverage as well as surveillance ranges between 250 and 375 km.
The IAF also carries out aerial refuelling for its fleet of Sukhoi Su-30MKI, Dassault Mirage 2000H, and SEPECAT Jaguar combat aircraft, but is handicapped by a shortage of mid-air tankers.
From its base in Agra, the service operates six Il-78 tankers, which were acquired in 2004. However, official sources said that merely two of these are operational as the remaining four are grounded, awaiting spares from Russia.
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