IAF's AWACS to be flight tested in 2012: Official

February 2, 2010, Bangalore -- The indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) System, integrated onboard the Brazilian aircraft EMB145 as per Indian Air Force’s requirement, would be flight tested in 2012, a key official involved in the project has said.

The AEW&C system (also called AWACS - Airborne Warning and Control System) is being developed by the Bangalore-based Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS), a lab under the Defence Research and Development Organisation for the IAF.

Under a deal signed between India and Brazil in 2008, Embraer aircraft manufacturer would modify its EMB145 to carry Active Array Antenna Unit by India on the aircraft's fuselage.

Three modified EMB-145 aircraft would be developed under the agreement.

“AEW&C’s flying platform is the modified EMB145, which will take to skies later this year. It is scheduled to be delivered to us in Aug 2011,” CABS Director S Christopher said here.

Defence Minister A K Antony on Tuesday inaugurated the System Test and Integration Rig (STIR) complex at CABS for testing airborne systems.

Christopher said: “...our mission systems will be ready by this year. It will be tested in this rig in 2011, followed by flight testing in 2012.”

The indigenous AEW&C system would detect, identify and classify threats present in the surveillance area and act as a command and control centre to support air operations, he said.


Navy Activates 1st strategic Mobile Fleet

February 1, 2010 -- The Navy inaugurated Monday its first Aegis destroyer-led squadron Monday in an effort to develop its blue-water operational capability beyond coastal defense.

The inauguration ceremony of the 7th Mobile Fleet which will be made up of two squadrons took place at the Naval Operations Command in Busan, the Navy said in a news release.

Each squadron consists of a 7,600-ton KDX-II Sejong the Great-class Aegis destroyer and three 4,500-ton KDX-II destroyers.

The second KDX-III destroyer, Yi I, will be delivered to the Navy in August after sea trials.

The Navy plans to launch one more Aegis ship by 2012.

Six 5,600-ton mini-Aegis KDX-IIA destroyers, which will be built and operational between 2019 and 2026, will also join the squadrons.

The mobile fleet will be backed by 1,800-ton submarines, frigates, P3-C maritime patrol aircraft and Lynx anti-submarine helicopters, when it conducts operations to secure sea lanes and defend against a possible North Korean invasion, among others, the Navy said.

The squadrons will be based at the Busan operations command and a naval base in Jinhae, South Gyeongsang Province, it said.

A forward-deployed naval base to be built on the southern island of Jeju by 2014 will serve as the home port for the mobile fleet.

"The establishment of this mobile fleet heralds the ROK Navy's development into a blue-water force," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jung Ok-keun said in his speech during the ceremony. "As a rapid deployment force ranking with naval powers in the world, the fleet will support national policies and interests by perfectly completing missions assigned."

The fleet is scheduled to participate in combined or multinational maritime exercises, including the annual Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), which will be held in waters off Hawaii, from this year.

During RIMPAC, in particular, the Sejong the Great KDX-III destroyer will test-fire ship-to-air SM-2 Block IIIA/B Tactical Standard Missiles for the first time as part of Aegis combat system ship qualification trails (CSSQT) with allied nations, Navy officials said.

CSSQT is a series of at-sea exercises and tests to verify whether shipboard combat and weapon systems have been installed properly, and can be operated and maintained safely and effectively by the crew.


IAF Pokhran Blitz to Showcase Its Firepower

February 1, 2010, New Delhi -- IAF is all set to conduct a high-voltage firepower exercise to showcase its `shock and awe' capabilities to both domestic as well as international audiences.

Dubbed `Vayu-Shakti', the high-intensity blitzkrieg will culminate in a massive firepower demonstration at the Pokhran range in Thar desert on February 24, with the country's top leadership, military brass and foreign military observers in attendance.

The sheer scale can be gauged from the fact that IAF has kept around 70 top-notch fighters like Sukhoi-30MKIs, Mirage-2000s, Jaguars, MiG-29s, MiG-27s and MiG-21 `Bisons' from several airbases on standby for Vayu-Shakti.

Moreover, IAF will also be deploying Mi-35 attack and Mi-17 medium-lift helicopters, IL-76 heavy-lift and AN-32 medium-lift cargo aircraft for the exercise.

"Vayu-Shakti is being held after a gap of some years. It will be a `maha' (major) one to demonstrate India's aerial firepower and capabilities, both during day and night," said a top IAF officer.

Foreign observers and military attaches are often invited to military exercises in India but this time the number will be much larger. "Vayu-Shakti will send a message that, along with the growing economic power, we also have the requisite military muscle to defend our geo-strategic interests," said another officer.

Yes, IAF is still grappling with the sharp decline in the number of its fighter squadrons, down to just 32 from even the `sanctioned strength' of 39.5. But the force is confident that operational and procurement plans are in place to ensure its capability to operate in India's expanding strategic environment, spreading from the Persian Gulf right up to Malacca Strait.

The fourth largest air force in the world after US, Russia and China, IAF's eventual aim is to transform into an `expeditionary aerospace force', with the wherewithal to rapidly deploy and operate across the globe.

IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, has outlined a three-pronged strategy for his force. One, `to see first and see the farthest', with AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) and satellites.

Two, `to reach first and the farthest', with mid-air refuellers to enhance the radius of operations of its fighters. And three, `to hit hard and accurately', with advanced missiles and PGMs (precision guided munitions).

All this, of course, does not come cheap. India has inked defence deals worth over $50 billion since the 1999 Kargil conflict, and will spend another $30 billion over the next four-five years, as reported by TOI earlier.

IAF, on its part, hopes to induct all 230 Sukhoi-30MKIs so far contracted from Russia for around $8.5 billion by 2014-15, apart from upgrades of its 63 MiG-29s and 52 Mirage-2000s.

Then, even as India is close to tying up with Russia to build and induct around 250 Sukhoi T-50 advanced stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft, the ongoing trials to select 126 multi-role combat aircraft under the mammoth $10.4 billion programme are at an advanced stage now.


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