Spy in the sky

India’s latest acquisition of high technology military hardware like an AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control Systems) is a major step in strengthening its strategic stature. For the Indian Air Force (IAF), an AWACS aircraft amounts to a ‘force multiplier,’ considering it can be used both for offensive and defensive air operations. An AWACS is an airborne platform equipped with electronic warfare/ intelligence systems to act as a ‘spy in the sky’ and track any hostile aircraft in the neighbourhood around the time it takes off from an airbase within detection range. Also its ability to gather intelligence by ‘listening’ into trans-border communications without violation of airspace is an asset. Today India faces threats to national security from conventional military capabilities and non state actors that has resulted in a state of ‘no war, no peace’ along its international borders. In such a situation, military readiness is the key to a quick response and explains why an AWACS assumes relevance.  

The role of an AWACS is to marshal fighter aircraft in real time to tackle any violations of national airspace by networking with radars on the ground and those of other aircraft. To that extent, an AWACS helps to fill in critical gaps in the radar network which is an air defence shield to provide early warnings and ward off hostile intrusions into our sovereign airspace. The two major problems that plague air defence radar coverage along our borders are technological obsolescence and mountainous terrain. Often ground-based radars are unable to detect low flying aircraft, which however would not be able to evade an AWACS owing to its altitude. So much so, an AWACS makes up for limitations of ground based air defence radars. Similarly, an AWACS as an airborne platform overcomes the problems associated with mountainous terrain which block transmission of radar signals and makes it possible for hostile aircraft to intrude easily into our national airspace. Today an AWACS is important to the IAF which suffers from a serious shortage of fighter aircraft considering its dwindling size is down from the required 39.5 squadrons to 30 squadrons. In this backdrop, AWACS enables the IAF to rationalise its deployment of combat air patrols and avoid unnecessary flying effort. While a good start has been made, it must be noted that a solitary AWACS can only cover a frontage of 400 km. For the IAF in order to provide comprehensive air cover to the Indian land mass, it would require a total of 18 AWACS which works out to an astronomical figure.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)