Sunday, August 2, 2009

CABS and DRDO to develop low-cost AEW&C

The Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) at Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is all geared up to develop a low-cost indigenous radar system, which they claim can be similar or more advanced than the Israeli Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). This will reduce India’s dependence on Israel and create more business opportunities for the local industry. They are also in the process of developing an indigenous radar system - the airborne early warning and control system (AEWC&S) - which can be used to develop a radar similar to AWACS. “DRDO is equipped to develop an indigenous radar system at substantially low-cost by using technologies developed for indigenous AEWC&S,” said a CABS official. DRDO said the Rs 1,800-crore AEWC&S or ‘Eye in the sky’ is scheduled for delivery by 2011.
This system alone is capable of creating business opportunities worth Rs 500-600 crore for SMEs. CABS and its other work centres at DRDO are taking the help of around 50-60 SMEs and PSUs to develop the system. Some of these include Astra Microwave, Alligator Designs, Mistral Solutions, CMC, BEL, BDL, Chaturvedi Tools, SM Creative, Cornett, Data Patterns and Ayur. DRDO sees an immense opportunity in developing these advanced radar systems, as the Indian Air Force is looking to acquire an additional 20 such systems.
This is because six aircraft fitted with such radars can effectively cover only an area equivalent to India’s northern borders. India had, in May 2009, taken delivery of AWACS, which is part of a $1.1-billion defence deal with Israel. The system is designed to detect aircraft at high altitude and allows operators to distinguish between friendly and hostile aircraft, even if they are hundreds of miles away. Experts like Ajey Lele from the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) said: “India needs AWACS for its security needs and it would be a welcome step, if India develops these indigenously. AWACS would provide IAF a high degree of situational awareness, enabling it to dominate the airspace.” DRDO chief controller R&D Prahlada said the indigenous AEWC&S, to be mounted on three Embraer-145 jets, being obtained from Brazil for $210 million “will be very advanced with the latest image processing facilities and better software systems compared to foreign sophisticated radar systems”. Scientists at CABS and its work centres like LRDE, Defence Avionics Research Establishment, Defence Electronics Research Laboratory, DEAL at DRDO have developed indigenous software for tactical battle management and signal processing, which can be used in radars.
“These software, if procured from abroad, could have cost more than $100 million,” said a CABS scientist. Sources said a South African wireless solutions provider Tellumat is in talks with DRDO to have Identification, Friend or Foe (IFF) systems, which are used in programmes such as AEWC&S. Sources said the IFF sensors proposal could throw up a number of opportunities, as Tellumat may have plans to manufacture these systems in India. DRDO is looking to engage a foreign partner to help CABS optimise the time and cost involved for integrating and evaluating the AEWC&S. Some of the contenders include Israel’s Elta, European EADS, Sweden’s Saab Erikson and the US’ Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.

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