Embraer has unveiled the first of three EMB-145s ordered by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) as testbeds for an indigenously developed airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system.

The first aircraft, equipped with the antenna structure for the phased-array radar under development by DRDO’s Bangalaru-based Center for Air Borne Systems (CABS), will be flight-tested at Embraer before its scheduled delivery to India in August.

Once delivered, CABS will begin integration of the AEW&C mission system, which includes the active electronically scanned array radar, electronic support measures, satellite communications, datalinks and operator workstations.

The full configuration is expected to fly next year, says V.K. Saraswat, director general of DRDO. The three EMB-145 AEW&C testbeds will be used for a range of tests including cold-weather trails in Alaska, he says.

Saraswat says the indigenous AEW&C development program has tough milestones to meet, but is on schedule. The building blocks of the mission system are undergoing simulation testing in the laboratory and rooftop tests of the S-band radar are under way at CABS, he says, adding “The system is ready to take to the aircraft and begin integration.”

Although the antenna is mounted above the fuselage like the Saab Erieye phased-array radar on Embraer’s existing EMB-145 AEW&C, the Indian aircraft incorporates several improvements. These include an inflight refueling probe, new electrical generation system with a second auxiliary power unit for the mission suite, and a new cooling system.

Following development, the three aircraft are scheduled to become operational with the Indian air force under a two-pronged approach to deploying an AEW&C capability, says Saraswat. This involves the purchase of Ilyushin Il-76s equipped with Elta’s Phalcon phased-array radar, now operational with the air force, while the indigenous AEW&C system is being developed in parallel.

As a next step, India plans to follow the three EMB-145s with development of an indigenous AEW&C system with the active-array radar mounted in a stationary rotodome. The platform for this system has not been selected, says Saraswat.

Although externally similar to Erieye, the antenna for India’s radar is shorter and deeper as it includes modules for the identification friend or foe system along the bottom of the transmit/receive array, says the director of CABS and AEW&C program manager.