NEW DELHI — The Indian Air Force is entering the global market to buy six additional aerostat radars for more than $400 million, a decision that avoids awarding a repeat order to Rafael of Israel.
In the next one or two months, India will float tenders to Britain’s BAE Systems, U.S. companies Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, France’s Thales, Israel Aerospace Industries and Russia’s Rosoboronexport, sources said.
The Indian Ministry of Defence agreed with the Air Force that fresh bids from the global market were better than giving repeat orders to Rafael. Air Force officials were not satisfied with the maintenance of two aerostat radars Rafael supplied, sources said.
Specifically, one of the two aerostat radars supplied by Rafael in 2007 was damaged in inclement weather along the Pakistan border in 2009 and has yet to become operational.
An Indian MoD source said Rafael demanded a high price for repair of the damaged radar, annoying the MoD.
The radars were based on a 2005 contract for three radars, which was awarded on a single-vendor basis.
Rafael executives in India were unavailable for comment on the accusations.
The state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation is developing two home-grown aerostat prototypes. The total requirement is close to 30 in the next 10 years.
Radars mounted on aerostats, or tethered balloons, provide long-range, low-altitude detection of hostile aircraft. The Air Force requires the aerostat radars, which can be raised to 15,000 feet above sea level.
The aerostat radars to be purchased will include an advanced programmable radar, electronic intelligence, communication intelligence, V/UHF radio telephone equipment and identification-friend-or-foe technology. The radars will have a coverage area of 10 to 350 kilometers and be able to pick up targets ranging from ground level to 30,000 feet.
In addition, the payload will include an air surveillance radar to detect missiles and fighter aircraft at various ranges, a surface surveillance radar and a combined surveillance radar for air and surface targets.
“Both India and Pakistan are using aerostat radars, and the need for deployment of such systems has increased further to monitor of low-flying aircraft,” defense analyst Nitin Mehta said. “Each aerostat is capable of providing a three-dimensional, low-altitude coverage equal to more than 40 ground-based radars.”
Even the Indian Navy is planning to deploy aerostat radars for surveillance along the coastal border, an Indian Navy official said.