Electronic Weapons: Russian-Israeli AWACS Shows Up


January 16, 2009: After a two year (it was supposed to be only one year) delay, Russia has delivered the first modified Il-76 AWACS aircraft for India. These aircraft have part of the airframe reinforced (to accommodate the Israeli Phalcon radar) and have more powerful engines. This system is basically an Israeli radar mounted in a Russian Il-76 transport. AWACS have proved to be a crucial element in winning air superiority, and more efficient use of air power.

India has three on order, for $367 million each (radar, aircraft and other electronics.) More Phalcon AWACS are wanted to provide better warning of nuclear missile attack from Pakistan. Russia has irked India several times with late deliveries of military equipment, as well as warranty and pricing disputes. This has led India to buy more weapons and military gear from the West.

Phalcon uses a phased array radar (thousands of small radar transmitters are fitted underneath the aircraft). The phased array radar, in combination with the latest, most powerful computers, and other antennas for picking up a variety of signals, enables Phalcon to be more aware of what electronic equipment (airborne or on the ground) is operating up to 400 kilometers away. The phased array radar allows positions of aircraft on operator screens to be updated every 2-4 seconds, rather than every 20-40 seconds as is the case on the United States AWACS (which uses a rotating radar in a radome atop the aircraft.) The major advantage of the Phalcon is that it is a more modern design. The latest improvements enable it to spot distant ballistic missiles rising up into the air, or cruise missiles coming in low and slow. The Phalcon Il-76 AWACS can stay in the air for about 14 hours per sortie, so three would not be able to provide anything like 24/7 coverage (given the need for maintenance). Eight Phalcons could provide constant coverage, during a crises situation. India is planning on ordering three more Il-76 Phalcons if the first three perform as specified.




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