November 26, 2007:
delayed, by at least a year, delivery of modified Il-76 aircraft for India.
These aircraft have part of the airframe reinforced (to accommodate the Israeli
Phalcon radar) and get more powerful engines. This delay could complicate Indian
plans to buy five more Phalcon AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control Systems)
aircraft. This system is basically an Israeli radar mounted in a Russian Il-76
transport. AWACS have proved to be a crucial element in winning air
superiority, and more efficient use of air power.
India already has three on
order, for $367 million each (radar, aircraft and other electronics.) More
Phalcon AWACS are wanted to provide better warning of nuclear missile attack
from Pakistan. The Russian delay may tempt India to use another aircraft.
Israel uses Boeing 707s, which are no longer manufactured. But Israel will
install the system in a Boeing 767, which the U.S. Air Force is considering as
its new aerial tanker. Russia has irked India several times with late
deliveries of military equipment, as well as warranty and pricing disputes.
This latest delay could have long term negative effects on trade relations.
Phalcon uses a phased array
radar (thousands of small radar transmitters are fitted underneath the
aircraft). The phased array radar, in combination with the latest, most
powerful computers, and other antennas for picking up a variety of signals,
enables Phalcon to be more aware of what electronic equipment (airborne or on
the ground) is operating up to 400 kilometers away. The phased array radar
allows positions of aircraft on operator screens to be updated every 2-4
seconds, rather than every 20-40 seconds as is the case on the United States
AWACS (which uses a rotating radar in a radome atop the aircraft.) The major advantage
of the Phalcon is that it is a more modern design. The latest improvements
enable it to spot distant ballistic missiles rising up into the air, or cruise
missiles coming in low and slow. The Phalcon Il-76 AWACS can stay in the air
for about 14 hours per sortie, so three would not be able to provide anything
like 24/7 coverage (given the need for maintenance). Eight Phalcons could
provide constant coverage, during a crises situation.