India is close to purchase two additional Russian-Israeli airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft, the Times of India newspaper reported.
India ordered three A-50EI variants, developed on the basis of the Russian Il-76MD military transport plane and fitted with the Israeli-made Phalcon radar system, in 2004. They are already in service with the Indian air force (IAF).
The Times of India cited on Tuesday defense ministry sources as saying that an $800-mln draft contract “is now…in the final stages of being examined” before being signed as a follow-on order to the previous $1.1-bln contract.
According to the paper, India needs to strengthen its early-warning radar capability as the neighboring rival Pakistan has purchased at least four Swedish Saab-2000 AEW aircraft and is about to receive four Chinese ZDK-03 AWACS planes.
“The Phalcons significantly boost the effectiveness of both offensive and defensive operations. Their enhanced detection and interception capability, connected to fighters and surface-to-air missile systems, are tremendous force-multipliers,” the Times of India quoted an Indian military official.
In many aspects, the A-50 is comparable to the E-3 Sentry of the U.S. Air Force. It is fitted with an aerial refueling system and electronic warfare equipment, and can detect targets up to 400 km (250 miles) away.
India is also planning to integrate domestically developed AWACS systems into three Brazilian-made Embraer-145 aircraft to be later commissioned with the Indian Air Force. However, the completion of the project has been pushed back to 2014.