July 20, 2017
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Aerial supervision
Air surveillance needs of IAF

Going by the speed of the induction one would never believe that Airborne Early Warning and Command Systems (AEW&CS) aircraft are a vital part of India’s air defence network. Because India was not getting them fast enough and in sufficient numbers it had to take resort to importing static aerostats that would plug the gaps in radar coverage of the Indian sub-continental periphery.

India’s AWACS and aerostat projects have been through many byways before getting stuck in the shoals of indigenization. The first lot of three were hybrid-an Uzbek aircraft (IL-76) was retrofitted with Israeli sensors and a static radome (the bulbous contraption on its back giving AWACS aircraft a very distinctive look). The conversion was done by Israel. The second lot (also of three) based on the Brazilian Embraer transport aircraft is fitted with an India-made panel sensor (two long conjoined strips carried on the back) which, because of its linear configuration suffers the disability of only a 260 degree coverage by its active electronically scanned array.

In a still more different experiment the Indian Air Force bought two static helium balloons known as aerostats to carry cameras and radar aloft to look into Pakistan and maintain a
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