India became the first country in South Asia to own an Airborne Early Warning and Control System, called 'an eye in the sky', with the Israeli-made Phalcon arriving at the Jamnagar airbase on the country's western coast on Monday morning.
The Phalcons will now be formally inducted into the Indian Air Force on May 28 by Defence Minister A K Antony at the Palam airbase in New Delhi, IAF sources told PTI.
The AWACS will provide IAF means to keep a tab on enemy aircraft and missiles taking off from across the border, thereby enhancing response time.
The Phalcon, mounted on a Russian Ilyushin-76 heavy-lift transport aircraft's airframe, had left Israel on Sunday. Jamnagar would be its first stop, followed by Palam on Tuesday, before it reaches Agra, which would be its home base, sources said.
The delivery of the $1.1 billion AWACS was previously scheduled on May 18, but last minute technical check-ups delayed its departure from Israel, sources said.
The remaining two AWACS, under the tripartite deal between India, Israel and Russia, will be delivered by mid or late 2010, IAF sources said.
The system, primarily used for detection of incoming hostile cruise missiles and aircraft from hundreds of kilometers away, can also direct air defence fighters during combat operations against enemy jets. It also helps detect troop build up across the borders.
With the induction of the Phalcons, frontline IAF fighters like Sukhoi-30MKIs, Mirage-2000s and Jaguars will now be backed by the airborne radar system to provide data on incoming enemy aircraft or missile much beyond visual range through a direct link.
India and Israel are said to be in advanced negotiations for the purchase of three more Phalcon AWACS, which the IAF proposes to integrate with other air and ground assets. All six AWACS would be linked with the country's first military satellite proposed to be launched by the middle of next year.
An all weather system capable of locking on to 60 targets simultaneously at 400-km range, the swift mobility that the AWACS platform provided will help neutralise any threat, as it could be moved anywhere on very short notice.
AWACS, a potent force-multiplier, will significantly enhance the effectiveness of both offensive and defensive operations. The US had earlier reportedly pressurised Israel to cancel a similar deal with China in 2000, but gave green signal to the Indian deal 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.