Raytheon has proposed a Gulfstream to serve as a platform as India boosts its ISTAR ground-detecting capabilities. (Getty Images)
NEW DELHI — The Indian Air Force (IAF) is negotiating purchase of two intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition reconnaissance (ISTAR) aircraft from Raytheon to boost its ground-detection capabilities.
Negotiations got a push after a visit by US Vice President Joseph Biden to New Delhi July 23, and a team from Raytheon briefed IAF officials here on the ISTAR capabilities on Oct. 11, said a source in the Ministry of Defence.
An executive of Raytheon here said their team has briefed IAF officials, but provided no details.
IAF interest in ISTAR capabilities was boosted by allied operations in Libya.
“The U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan and the Operation Ellamy in Libya have brought to light the use of ISTAR aircraft and IAF decided to acquire these capabilities,” said a retired IAF official.
IAF shortlisted Raytheon after evaluating responses to a request for information sent in 2011 to Thales, Boeing, BAE, Elta and Raytheon. IAF proposes to purchase two ISTAR aircraft from Raytheon on a government-to-government basis at a cost of about $350 million each. Raytheon has offered a Gulfstream platform for the aircraft but has left it open for the IAF to make its own platform selection.
The ISTAR aircraft will use active electronically scanned array radar and be able to scan more than 30,000 kilometers in a minute and analyze the data in 10 to 15 minutes to identify targets. The system would operate in all weather, day and night.
To cover India’s lengthy borders, the ISTAR surveillance aircraft would need to fly as high as 40,000 feet , said an IAF official.
When acquired, the ISTAR aircraft will be integrated with India’s indigenous air command and control system (IACCS).
Being built on the lines of NATO’s air command-and-control system, IACCS will handle air traffic control, surveillance, air mission control, airspace management and force management functions, added the IAF official. IAF’s airborne warning and control system (AWACS), aerostat radars and other radars are being integrated with the IACCS, enabling quick transfer of data from various platforms to a central battlefield management system.
ISTAR aircraft are used against ground targets and for battlefield management, whereas the AWACS are meant for air defense and aerial targeting, said the IAF official. India also uses aerostat radars, which are mini versions of the AWACS and do not help in ground target acquisition.
The service also uses UAVs for surveillance and reconnaissance, but they have limited capabilities.