India is likely to place orders worth ₹20,000 crore with Airbus to buy six A330 aircraft to mount the indigenously-built Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS).

DRDO Chairman S Christopher, addressing reporters on the sidelines of Aero India international seminar, said, “Currently the order to buy Airbus aircraft is before the Cabinet Committee on Security.”

“We are hopeful that within six months we will get the clearances and the first aircraft will be ready for handing over to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in less than 84 months after signing the contract.”

Before the Airbus buys for full-scale deployment of AWACS, IAF is shortly to induct indigenously one developed by the Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) in Bengaluru. The one being inducted is built on Brazilian-made Embraer-145 aircraft that would be handed over to the IAF on February 14 at the Aero India 2017.

According to Christopher, CCS had, in 2014, given the go ahead to tender for the aircraft in which AWACS systems would be fitted and following a global competition, Airbus 330 was selected. In all, six aircraft will be secured for the AWACS.

Pitch for local products

Explaining the salient features of AWACS, he said, “The present one developed on Embraer-145 aircraft has 240 degree surveillance and a coverage area of 240 km but when mounted on Airbus it will have 360 degree surveillance with a coverage area of 300 km.”

Earlier, addressing the Aero India international seminar, VK Saraswat, Niti Aayog member and a former head of DRDO, pitched for indigenously developed products.

He said he was pained to read that the Navy was looking to acquire 57 Gripen aircraft ignoring the naval variant of the locally developed Light Combat Aircraft Tejas.