Following a seven-year wait, India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) will later this month sign a procurement contract with Russia’s Rosoboronexport State Corp and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for two A-50EI PHALCON AEW & CS (using the IL-476-90 airframe), with each being fitted with the IAI-supplied/installed/integrated ELW-2090 mission avionics suite for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Though the MoD had negotiated and finalised a follow-on US$1.5 billion contract to acquire another three A-50EI PHALCON AEW & CS by November 2008, contract signature could not take place until officials from both Rosoboronexport State Corp and Ilyushin Finance Corp gave firm assurance to the IAF last June that a new-generation successor to the IL-76, called IL-476, featuring a fully-digital fly-by-wire flight control system, glass cockpit avionics and PS-90A-76 turbofans, was available from Russia’s Ulyanovsk-based AVIASTAR SP Aircraft Building Enterprise JSC.
Consequently, the follow-on order for two A-50EI PHALCONs was negotiated with both Rosoboronexport and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) by late last year. From the Russian side the principal industrial contractors will be AVIASTAR SP and Taganrog-based Beriev Aircraft Company. IAI will commence deliveries of the two A-50EIs from mid-2018.
Presently based at the IAF’s Agra Air Force Station as part of No.50 Squadron, alongside No.78 Squadron, which presently operates six IL-78MKI aerial refuelling tankers, the IAF’s first two A-50EI PHALCONs arrived in India on May 25, 2009 and March 25, 2010, respectively. The third platform arrived in Agra in March 2011.
The A-50EI/PHALCON’s EL/M-2075 mission avionics suite of these three PHALCONs includes the L-band active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar (comprising three antenna arrays mounted in a triangular manner) contained within a radome above the fuselage. The electronically-steered beam provides 360-degree coverage around the aircraft and it carries up to 11 mission management personnel for airspace surveillance and airborne battlespace management. BARCO of Belgium supplied the 20-inch AMLCDs for the mission management suit, with Tadiran SpectraLINK supplying the secure digital data links.