Tel Aviv: Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots will fly in the first of three Israeli Phalcon AWACS on Monday, marking the induction of a potent force multiplier in the Indian sub-continent region. The formal induction of the aircraft is slated for Tuesday, with the newly installed defence minister in attendance.
The AWACS aircraft is capable of tracking missiles, fighter aircraft, troop movements and gathering electronics and signals intelligence deep in enemy territory.
The AWACS platform, which involves a Russian Il-76 aircraft and Israeli radar and electronics, has been created through a tripartite agreement involving Russia, Israel and India.
The radome-mounted aircraft was scheduled to take off from the Ben-Gurion airport in Israel on Sunday and head first for Uvda in the southern Israeli coastal town of Eilat. Eventually it was supposed to fly at night from Eilat to Jamnagar, reaching India on Monday, according to defence sources.
This all-weather, tracking and intelligence gathering system is capable of logging 60 targets simultaneously in a range of 400 km. It can detect incoming hostile cruise missiles and aircraft from hundreds of kilometres away, and act as a command platform for defence fighters in the course of combat operations.
Its capabilities will allow IAFs frontline fighter aircraft, such as Sukhoi-30MKIs, Mirage-2000s, MiG-29s and Jaguars, to get constant data feed on the environment around them allowing them to react to enemy movement even before their own radars can come into play. They are in effect the IAF's ''eye in the sky''.
The delivery of the first of the three aircraft is almost a year and a half behind schedule, mainly on delayed delivery of the Il-76 platform by the Uzbeks and subsequent integration of the aircraft with the Israeli electronics package.
The remaining two aircraft are now scheduled for delivery sometime in 2010.
Talks are in an advanced stage for the purchase of several more Phalcon AWACS. The first lot of three AWACS were contracted for at a cost of $1.1 billion.
Eventually all AWACS will be hooked up with the larger Indian RISAT spy satellite to be launched sometime later this year, or early next year. In response to the Mumbai terror attacks in November last year a smaller, modified version was launched by ISRO early this year and is already in operation.