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Indian government approves acquisition of six more AEW&C platforms for IAF

India's Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has approved an INR109.9 billion (USD1.5 billion) programme to acquire six Airbus commercial aircraft currently in service with Air India and equip them with indigenously developed airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) systems for use by the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Industry officials told Janes on 10 September the CCS's decision, which advances the Defence Research and Development Organisation's (DRDO's) AEW&C programme, was made during the 9 September meeting in New Delhi. The programme had already been approved by the Ministry of Defence's (MoD's) Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in December 2020.

At the time the DAC members had agreed that the DRDO's Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) would mount its locally developed AEW&C Block 2 systems, including a 360° active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, onto six Air India aircraft after “suitable modifications” are made to the platform by Airbus.

IAF sources told Janes that the CABS aims to equip the commercial aircraft with an upgraded version of its locally designed Netra AEW&C system, which it successfully integrated onto two of the three Embraer EMB-145 aircraft that were handed over to the IAF in 2017 and 2018. A third EMB-145 is being used by the DRDO as a testbed for India's AEW&C programme.

The DRDO is now expected to issue a tender – worth an estimated INR110 billion – for the structural upgrade of the Airbus platforms. The agency aims to conduct the first fight of the planned AEW&C platform in four years, and to complete the entire programme three years later.

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