Aviation

India, Israel bilateral talks may give wing to the stuck aircraft deal

India and Israel are likely to discuss the deal to supply two new Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) ‘eyes in the sky’, worth Rs 7,000 crore. The deal has been stuck for over a year now due to steep price hike.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting India on January 13, 2018.

In the previous deal signed in 2003-04, India had acquired three AWACS systems in which the Russian Ilyushin-76 aircraft were equipped with Israel-made sophisticated radars at the cost of $1.1 billion (over Rs 7,035 crore) to carry out surveillance of enemy aircraft, drones and cruise missiles at ranges up to 400-500 km inside their territory.

“The price of the two new AWACS has been quoted to be over USD 1.25 billion (Rs 8,000 crore) by the vendors as they have asked for much more compared to the cost of the three planes bought earlier. It cannot be agreed to, and that is why the programme has been stalled,” senior government sources told Mail Today.

“The main reason behind the steep jump in the price is the almost three-fold increase in the price of the IL-76 planes, on which the radars have to be mounted. The Israelis have also hiked their price much more than what is permitted due to inflation,” official added.

The deal is now expected to be discussed during the meeting of the two Prime Ministers.

On several past occasions, the issue of acquiring AWACs has been coming up at meeting of Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), which is the apex body of the Defence ministry, to acquire new weapon systems for the armed forces.

India also decided to develop its own AWACS as the DAC has given clearance to a proposal to acquire two Airbus-330 planes and build an AWACS, which can provide 360-degree surveillance like the Israeli radar.

The project would start with two planes, which are likely to take five to six years to be completed, and once successful, the DRDO would take sanction for six more aircrafts.

The trials of DRDO developed Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEWC) aircraft is nearing its completion in Bhatinda.

These are smaller in size and have 240-degree coverage. After undergoing trials, they would be used for operational flying by the services.

The Air Force needs 15 AWACS and smaller AEWC planes with radars of different capabilities.

By: India Today

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