Strategic Weapons: India Wants More AWACS To Spot Missiles

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April 7, 2007: India wants to buy five more Phalcon AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control Systems) aircraft. This system is basically an Israeli radar mounted in a Russian Il-76 transport. India already 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.

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 first Phalcon system was fitted on a Boeing 707, although somewhat limited versions could be put onto a smaller C-130. On a larger aircraft, you can have more computers, and other electronics, as well as more human operators. But 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 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. The government is inclined to buy the additional AWACS, because it's common knowledge that such aircraft are very useful in any kind of conflict involving warplanes.

 


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