India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has invited global bids by mid-July for six aircraft to supplement its fleet of airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platforms.
The tender, dispatched on 11 March by DRDO's Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) in Bangalore, requires the proposed platforms to be supplied with "structural modifications, power and endurance adaptations, and provisions to support its Airborne Warning and Control System [India] programme".
This would include design and certification to facilitate the installation of CABS' AEW&C antenna rotodome - 10 m in diameter - and supporting pylon onto the airframe.
The tender, which was sent to Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Dassault, Saab, and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation, also calls for the provision of affixing additional avionics, external and internal mission systems, and other customer-furnished equipment. The selected platform will be required to remain operational for 30 years.
The tender follows the February 2013 approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to CABS for its add-on AEW&C programme. The CCS imposed a 2020-21 deadline for completion.
The AEW&C project aims to augment the Indian Air Force's (IAF's) nascent network-centric battle management platforms. It envisages a mix of up to 20 large and small AEW&C platforms to detect enemy aircraft and cruise missiles and to monitor India's 7,517 km long coastline.
The IAF has already inducted three Uzbek Il-76 A50 heavy transport aircraft upgraded by Russia with Aviadvigatel PS-90A-76 engines and mounted with the Elta Phalcon 'aireye' radar that was integrated by Israel Aircraft Industries. Acquired in 2004 for USD2 billion, all three platforms entered IAF service by early 2011 and are based at Agra, 230 km southeast of New Delhi.
In November 2011 the IAF announced that it would additionally acquire two similar platforms with a 400-500 km operational range for around USD800 million, but there has been no progress on this acquisition.
Additionally, CABS is developing its own AEW&C system for around INR18 billion (USD300 million) that will be mounted on three Brazilian Embraer EMB-145I jets acquired in 2008 for USD210 million. The first of three EMB-145Is was handed over to CABS in Brazil in August 2012, but the AEW&C programme is delayed by several years following cost overruns and technical problems with developing the platforms' active electronically scanned array radar.
The system is designed to have 240-degree coverage, five-hour endurance, and a surveillance range of 250-375 km.