Monday, 8 June 2015

DRDO's AWE&C attracts attention of the export market

Indian AEW&C System attracts export customers

By Sangeeta Saxena

New Delhi. It is South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia now, the list could get bigger. And this too before the aircraft has got officially inducted into the IAF. Governments have written to Indian government enquiring about the AEW&C for military and homeland security operations. The absolutely indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system which promises to be a critical eye-in-the-sky developed by DRDO’s Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS), Bengaluru is suddenly the cynosure of all eyes.

Having flown more than 300 test sorties over different cities, it is only a step away from induction by the IAF this month. It is an effort to evolve a compact state-of-the-art airborne surveillance system for the Indian Air Force to mark a significant contribution to Defence preparedness by the DRDO with CABS (Bangalore) spearheading the programme as a nodal agency. The indigenous AEW&C is a multi-sensor system on a executive jet aircraft providing for all aspects of airborne surveillance.

The Indian AEW&C system will detect, identify and classify threats present in the surveillance area and act as a Command and Control Centre to support Air Defence operations, like AWACS. The system with its multiple Communication and Data Links can alert and direct fighters against threats while providing Recognizable Air Surveillance Picture (RASP) to commanders at the Ground Exploitation Stations (GES) that are strategically located. The AEW&C system can thus support Air Force in offensive strike missions and assist Forces in the tactical battle area. Besides, the Electronic and Communication Support Measures of the system can intercept and gather ELINT/COMINT from radar transmissions and communication signals.

It is a multi-sensor surveillance system that can perform operational roles as defined by the IAF like air space management, detection, identification, threat assessment and interception of airborne and surface targets. It will also suffice all weather day & night operations and have electronic intelligence gathering techniques. The Brazilian Emb-145 has been chosen as the platform aircraft for the AEW&C system. The aircraft modified for the role will have an additional Auxiliary Power Unit to power the radar systems. The cabin of the aircraft is being reconfigured to house five Operator Work Stations, four Racks to hold the mission system electronics, additional Fuselage Fuel Tanks and five rest crew seats. The platform aircraft is also installed with an In-flight Refuelling system to facilitate extended surveillance operations. The Emb-145 AEW&C I, as the indigenous system would be called, is capable of climbing to flight altitudes from where the radar can cover from ground level to maximum required altitude to detect airborne targets at a long range.

The AEW&C system is a multi sensor airborne surveillance system. It comprises of Primary Radar (PR) and Secondary Surveillance Radar(SSR / IFF) as the active sensors onboard. The Electronic Support Measure (ESM) and the Communication Support Measure (CSM) systems will aid in identification / classification, based on the various emissions from the targets. The Self Protection Suite (SPS) will comprise of Radar Warning Receiver(RWR), which may be incorporated in the ESM system, Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS) and Counter Measures Dispensing system (CMDS). The AEW&C will have a 'C' Band data link and a 'Ku' band SATCOM link for air to ground communication. The C band Data Link and the 'Ku' Band SATCOM link will function as dual redundant system.

The AEW&C will also have a Mission Communication System (MCS) consisting of a set of five V/UHF sets for air to air voice and data communication. The Mission System Controller (MSC) of AEW&C system will integrate all the sensor data and form system tracks and carry out other system control functions. The intercept control segment of the Mission System Controller (MSC) will carry out the battle management function and will guide the interceptors and vector strike aircraft in addition to carrying out the recovery operations. The Data Handling and Display System (DHDS) will display the Air Situation Picture (ASP) on Operator Work Station(OWS) and will provide all facilities for the operators to interact with the AEW&C system.

The AEW&C mission sub-systems are tested in the System Test and Integration Rig (STIR) at CABS. CABS & LRDE have carried out radar performance tests on a Dual Segment Active Antenna Array Unit(AAAU) in a 100-ft test tower against opportune as well as assigned air targets. The radar performance in terms of range and azimuth-coverage has been assessed to match well with design performance values. The full-scale AAAU with fully-qualified Line Replaceable Units (LRUs) has also been collimated and Transmit- and Receive- pattern measurements done in the Planar Near Field Measurement (PNFM) facility at CABS. Other Sub-systems like the SSR, ESM, CSM, MCS, DHDS and DL have been airworthiness- qualified and put through rigorous functional and performance tests in the labs/ roof-top rigs/ hack aircraft.

Once airborne, the aircraft can fly continuously for five hours, or double that duration after air-to-air refuelling. It has the capability to track several hundred targets simultaneously in the air and on the ground, some even 350 km away, thus promises to be a great asset to the IAF.


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