Tel Aviv: Indian Air Force pilots are all set to fly home first of the three Israeli Phalcon AWACS, India’s most potent force multiplier, capable of tracking down incoming missiles and peep into neighbouring countries without violating their airspace.

“The Russian supplied Ilyushin-76 mounted system, a part of the tripartite agreement between India, Israel and Russia, will take off from the Ben-Gurion airport on Sunday , first for Uvda in the southern Israeli coastal town of Eilat,” Defence Sources here said. “Later in the night it will fly from Eilat to Jamnagar, reaching India on Monday ,” the sources said.

The all weather system, capable of logging 60 targets simultaneously with a range of 400 km, is primarily used for detection of incoming hostile cruise missiles and aircraft from hundreds of kilometres away, as well as directing air defence fighters during combat operations against enemy jets.

It also helps detect troop build up in hostile territories. India’s frontline IAF fighters like Sukhoi-30MKIs, Mirage-2000s and Jaguars after the supply of the aircraft will be backed by “eyes in the sky” to look much beyond its existing capability through direct data linking.

The delivery of the first of the three aircraft, bought at a whopping price of $1.1 billion, is almost a year and a half behind schedule. Much of the delay is being attributed to technical difficulties arising while integrating the Ilyushin-76 aircraft with the whole system.

The remaining two aircraft would be delivered by Mid or late 2010, if everything goes on schedule, the sources said. India and Israel are said to be in advanced talks for the purchase of several more Phalcon AWACS, which the IAF proposes to integrate with other air and ground assets.

All the AWACS bought from Israel would be linked with the country’s first military satellite proposed to be launched by mid next year.

The Phalcons will provide the IAF with intelligence inputs, helping it to maintain air superiority, improve strike capabilities and conduct tactical surveillance deep into neighbouring countries. The U.S. had earlier pressurised Israel to cancel a similar deal with China in 2000 but gave, green light to the deal with India in May 2003. Israel has recently emerged as India’s largest supplier of defence equipments with the country’s weapon sales to New Delhi constituting about 50 per cent of its arms exports. — PTI