The first indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) has been handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the opening day of Aero India, the world's second largest airshow. In a small ceremony on the tarmac at Yelahanka Air Force base outside Bengaluru, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar handed over the symbolic keys of the aircraft to the new IAF squadron which will fly the aircraft from its base in Bhatinda in Punjab.
- Netra is India's first indigenous airborne warning aircraft
- It can detect enemy aircraft more than 300 kilometres away
- 2 Netra systems handed over to Air Force at Aero India show in Bengaluru
Christened the 'Netra', the Airborne Surveillance System is seen to be a game-changer in air warfare. The Netra is designed to control the battle space by detecting enemy aircraft more than 300 kilometres away. Using this data, operators onboard the jet can vector Indian Air Force fighters to intercept these hostile targets. It is equipped with an indigenously built Active Electronically Scanned Radar, Secondary Surveillance Radar, Electronic and Communication Counter Measures, LOS (Line of Sight) and beyond LOS data link, a voice communication system and self-protection suite
In order to be able to process all the data that it receives from its sensors, the Netra is equipped with home-grown tactical software that fuses information from the sensors to provide operators a coherent picture of airborne threats in the region on their displays.
In an interview to NDTV, Suma Varughese, the Project Director says "All systems except the Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system is indigenous. The top antenna weighs 1,600 kg. It is an amalgamation of many technologies like the structural aspects, the software, the thermal aspects. It was the first time we had accepted this challenge."
The government, keeping the importance of the project in mind, has decided that it can ill-afford to blacklist Embraer, the manufacturer of the jet upon which the indigenous radar systems are mounted. So while Embraer, which has admitted to the involvement of middlemen in the deal, will be financially penalised, the project will continue.
For the moment, the IAF is acquiring 2 Netra systems but Mr Parrikar is clear - in the future, Indian engineers will improve upon this system to make it better.
"This was the first technical initiation so that we could achieve the basic objective. Now they will go for 360 degrees [surveillance] with this experience," he said.