NATIONAL

Pact for acquiring AWACS signed

NEW DELHI OCT. 10 . India today signed a trilateral agreement with Russia and Israel, paving the way for the acquisition of the sophisticated aircraft-mounted radars called airborne early warning and control system (AWACS).

The trilateral pact, necessary to marry the Israeli radar with Russian-origin military transport aircraft and integrate the two with the ground-control systems, was stalemated for a year due to Moscow's insistence on certain clauses.

The Defence Secretary, Ajay Prasad, the senior Israeli Defence Ministry official, Yasi Ben Hanan, and the Russian Defence Ministry's Mikhael Denisov signed the agreement here.

Indian defence scientists are providing technical solutions to integrating the radars, avionics and data links. This is the first time that Phalcon radar will be fitted on a Russian-origin aircraft to be specially modified to specifications by a Tashkent-based company. The trend has been to mount it on the Boeing platforms.

Overriding objections from China and Pakistan, India will become the only country in the region to possess three radar-mounted `eyes-in-the-sky' with a surveillance radius of 800 km at a height of 30,000 feet. Only the U.S., Russia, France, Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Sweden possess AWACS. Indigenous attempts in this direction ended in an air-crash killing eight scientists and crew aboard the prototype.

With the experience gained from `Airawat'— the indigenous AWACS prototype— the country has been able to acquire the latest in air-borne radars with a platform that will be easy to maintain since the Indian Air Force possesses similar planes for troop lift and air-to-air refuelling.

The trilateral deal is important considering that the United States reportedly leaned on Israel to cancel a firm deal with China last year. Pakistan too is unhappy with the deal, which is the third major one signed recently by India in the area of surveillance systems considered `defensive' in character. The U.S. has supplied artillery battery locating radars, and Israel, the missile locating green-pine radars. But both countries are hesitant about exporting short-range missiles to India, as it would increase offensive capabilities. Officially, the two countries are "examining" the requests several months after they were submitted.