India is likely to buy two additional Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft to strengthen its air defense, according to Defense Minister A.K. Antony.

The Indian air force (IAF) currently has three IAI/Elta Phalcon radar systems mounted on IL-76 aircraft under a $1.1 billion deal with Israel and Russia signed in 2004. The minister did not clarify whether the government will go ahead with a follow-on option for the Phalcon AWACS or release fresh tenders for the additional aircraft. Earlier proposals for the purchase of two follow-on Phalcon AWACS aircraft ran into rough weather due to sharp cost escalation.

The additional AWACS equipment and radars will be installed atop the IL-76, Boeing 777 or Airbus 320.

“The long-term integrated perspective plan of the defense ministry envisages deployment of a mix of large AWACS aircraft and small Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system aircraft,” Antony says.

The IAF received the first of the three Embraer 145 AEW&C aircraft from Brazil’s Embraer Defense and Security in August 2012 under an agreement worth more than $200 million signed in 2008 to jointly integrate the indigenously developed AEW&C systems onto three of the modified regional jets.

The aircraft carry Active Array Antenna Units developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) atop their fuselage. The other two AEW&C aircraft are due to be delivered by 2014.

“The DRDO is engaged in indigenous development of three AEW&C systems and is envisaged to be completed in about 84 months from the date of formal sanction,” the minister says.

A320 photo: Airbus