30 Nov 2017
#DefenseDiaries: How the indigenous Netra AEW&CS watches over Indian skies
Earlier today, the Indian Air Forces (IAF) first indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&CS), christened 'Netra', successfully completed its first air-to-air refueling.
The Netra was refueled by an Ilyushin IL-78 aerial tanker.
The operation would greatly improve the endurance of the aircraft, which serves as India's force multiplying "eye in the sky" against enemy warplanes.
Here's all about the Netra.
What are AEW&CS?
AEW&CS platforms comprise of a large radar mounted on top of airplanes, which are normally modified variants of existing passenger or military transport aircraft.
Such systems are critical force-multipliers in modern-day combat.
They are capable of detecting incoming fighter jets, drones and cruise missiles before ground-based radars can.
They also direct friendly warplanes against enemy jets during combat operations.
Several Indian defense research labs toiled for Netra's development
In 2004, the Indian government sanctioned the project to develop three AEW&CS platforms.
The state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation's Bengaluru-based lab Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) was entrusted with its design and system integration.
The Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) and Defence Electronics Application Laboratory (DEAL) were responsible for developing the AEW&CS' primary radar array and communications systems, respectively.
Radar system mounted on Brazilian Embraer ERJ-145 plane
The Brazilian Embraer ERJ-145 plane was selected as the platform on which the DRDO-developed radar systems and subsystems would be mounted.
In 2012, India received the first AEW&CS platform from Embraer.
The DRDO integrated other subsystems to the aircraft which subsequently underwent extensive testing.
The IAF inducted its first AEW&CS in February 2017, following a six-year delay due to problems in developing the radar.
Netra platform has advanced AESA radar
The Netra AEW&CS features an advanced Active Electronic Scanned Array (AESA) radar which offers a 240-degree coverage to detect enemy aircraft at a maximum range of 250km. The three Netra platforms will complement the IAF's three Israeli-made Phalcon AWACS integrated with Russian IL-76 aircraft.
Netra is a technology demonstrator for larger AWACS
In February 2017, the then Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said the Netra is "a technology demonstrator."
The expertise gained from developing Netra will be used for the larger, more advanced 360-degree radar to be integrated on an Airbus A-330 aircraft.
"We will have six such AWACS aircraft which can scan the skies up to 400 km" in the next eight years, Parrikar had said.