Five years after a setback to its indigenous Airbrone Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) programme, the Cabinet Committee on Security on gave the go ahead for the revival of the project setting a timeframe of seven years for its development at a cost of Rs 1800 crore.
Apparently buoyed by the recent breakthroughs in radar technology by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the CCS cleared the project for an indigenous AWACS at an hour-long meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
"The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Air Force will jointly cooperate in the development of the system," Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said.
He also said the CCS accorded an ex-post facto approval to a wide-ranging defence agreement between India and Brazil.
The revival of the AWACS project comes after five years DRDO's HS-748 technology demonstrator aircraft crashed killing some DRDO scientists and technicians in Tamil Nadu in 1999.
Though the minister did not not spell out the aircraft on which the new AWACS would be mounted, his announcement of ratification of a defence agreement with Brazil assumes significance as Brazilian aviation company Embraer is one of the few countries to have the AWACS technology.
India recently concluded an agreement with a company for the purchase of five Embraer executive jets, four for the VVIP squadron of the IAF and one for the Union home ministry.
The announcement also comes in the wake of recent comments by former DRDO Secretary V K Atre that India has developed expertise to produce an indigenous AWACS.
The decision to produce the AWACS within the country follows a recent multi-million dollar trilateral deal signed to mount Israeli Phalcon 'aireye' radars on a Russian IL-76 transport aircraft with Indian avionics spinoffs.
The first of the three AWACS was likely to be delivered by early 2007.