As tensions once again spike between India and China, the Indian Cabinet is set to approve an order of two Phalcon AWACs from Israel.
Indian media have reported that the deal, reportedly about $1 billion, has been in the works for the past few years. It is now nearing the final stage and is expected to be discussed in the next Cabinet Committee on Security meeting.
Mounted on a Russian Ilyushin-76 heavy-lift aircraft, the system has Active Electronic Steering Array (AESA), L-Band radar with 360° coverage, and can detect and track incoming aircraft, cruise missiles and drones before ground-based radars.
The first three Phalcon AWACS were obtained by the Indian Air Force in 2009 after a $1.1 billion deal was signed between India, Israel and Russia in 2004.
Last year The Times of India reported that New Delhi was likely to approve the deal with IAI subsidiary ELTA to acquire the two AWACs at a cost of $800 million, but the Finance Ministry had objected to the high costs of the new deal.
But the February 2019 incident between Pakistan and India as well as the growing border tensions with China in high-altitude eastern Ladakh have pushed New Dehli to once again reconsider the deal and to speed up the acquisition of the systems, despite the price increase.
Despite the increase of tensions with the two countries that have more AWACs than India, it is expected that it will take two to three years for the delivery of the complete system.
In addition to the three AWACs already in India’s possession, which have a 400-km. range and 360-degree coverage, New Delhi has two indigenous “Netra” AEW&C aircraft with range of 250 km. and 240-degree coverage radars fitted on smaller Brazilian Embraer-145 jets.
Israel has been supplying India with various weapons systems, missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles over the last few years, making India one of Israel’s largest buyers of military hardware.
A March report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found that Israel’s arms exports over the past four years have been the highest ever and accounted for 3% of the global total.
The Jewish state was found to be the world’s eighth-largest arms supplier and that its arms exports were 77% higher than between 2010-2014.
According to the report, the top three customers of Israeli arms were India (45% of the total amount), Azerbaijan (17%), and Vietnam (8.5%).
Israel’s military exports unit of the Defense Ministry also reported last year that military exports by the country brought in $7.5 billion dollars in 2018, the first decline in three years that saw consecutive increases in defense exports. While that figure for 2018 was $1.7 billion less than in the previous year, it was still higher than the average for the past decade, the ministry said.