Electronic Weapons: Phalcon Soars


July 24, 2010: India wants to buy two more Phalcon AWACS systems. In the last 18 months, India has received two of the three Phalcon AWACS (Air Warning And Control System) systems it had on order, and the last one will arrive by the end of the year. Russia supplies the modified Il-76 aircraft, and Israel the radar and control system. AWACS, pioneered by the U.S., have proved to be a crucial element in winning air superiority, and more efficient use of air power.

India ordered the three  IL-76 AWACS, for $367 million each (radar, aircraft and other electronics) in 2004. Now India is looking for two more Phalcon AWACS, to provide better warning of nuclear missile attack from Pakistan, or China. India is open to offers from other aircraft manufacturers, as it was not happy with Russia and the Il-76. Israel uses Boeing 707s, which are no longer manufactured. But Israel will install Phalcon in a Boeing 707 or 767, an AirBus or even a Gulfstream 550 business jet. India is also developing a locally developed AWACS, using three smaller Embraer 145 jets bought from Brazil and a less capable (than Phalcon), and cheaper radar/control systems obtained from Indian suppliers.

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, but five would be a lot better than three.

Meanwhile, India has ordered 57 ground based radars to complement the AWACS, and provide complete coverage of airspace along its borders with Pakistan and China. These new systems include 19 LLTRs (low-level transportable radars), and four fixed, longer range MPRs (medium-power radars), four Aerostat (tethered blimp) radars and 30 Indian made medium-range Rohini radar systems. Most of the new radars are fixed, and will serve civil aviation, as well as military needs. India is also linking all civil and military ground radars so that military air defense headquarters can have a complete picture of what is flying in Indian airspace.






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